National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bill Donald - a Montana rancher - says October 12th was a historic day. After nearly five years of waiting - Congress was finally able to pass the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea:
"That, we believe, was a victory for all of agriculture and certainly the entire US economy. From job creations, economic growth, to expanding opportunities for all of us in rural America, these agreements are clearly a win for the entire country."
Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus of Montana, says these agreements will level the playing field for U.S. agriculture.
"This agreement, basically gets rid of that huge differential. So it's a big win for agriculture, and of course a lot of that is beef because Korea currently has a forty percent tariff on US beef going into Korea. They don't take all ages and all cuts yet, but we'll start negotiations to get there as part of the Korean FTA, that provision is in there for consultations looking toward ending all Korean barriers so Korea takes all ages and all cuts."
Texas Representative Kevin Brady, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, says all three agreements need to be implemented quickly:
"Being able to produce 12 million metric tons of beef a year doesn't help if you can't sell that around the world to customers who want it. Other countries know the value of these markets. Europe, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and others are moving very agressively into Korea, Colombia and Panama taking, frankly, our customers and our market share. So the sooner we can get these agreements enforced, the better."
Lawmakers and ag producers are anxious to see these FTAs implemented so U.S. agriculture has a chance to recapture market share and expand market opportunities.