As Agriculture Secretary Vilsack said today during a national media call, Congress must now take action on an important part of President Obama's jobs agenda: new trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea and trade adjustment assistance to help train workers for the 21st century economy. When approved, these agreements will clear the way for new American exports around the world, help create jobs and provide new income opportunities for our nation's agricultural producers, small businesses, and rural communities.
What these three agreements come down to is opportunity. For American agriculture, passage of these agreements means over $2.3 billion in additional exports, supporting nearly 20,000 jobs here at home.
Over the past two years, American agriculture has shattered trade records and created jobs. And these agreements will build on that success.
There are provisions in these agreements that benefit nearly every sector of U.S. agriculture—including beef, poultry, pork, wheat, corn, soybeans, cotton, and many other commodities. In fact, more than half of U.S. agricultural products will gain immediate, duty-free access to each of the three markets as soon as the agreements are implemented. That’s a lot of opportunity.
On the flip side is the opportunity that will be lost if we fail to get these agreements enacted. We face increasingly stiff competition in all three markets, and that competition is intensifying as Korea, Colombia and Panama enter into free trade agreements with a number of other nations, many of whom are our direct competitors.
USDA has just updated fact sheets that show the benefits of the trade agreements for America’s farmers and ranchers. In addition to a comprehensive fact sheet on each of the three agreements, USDA also has updated fact sheets on how the agreements will benefit states and commodities.