The free trade agreement between the United State and South Korea, also known as KORUS, has been five years in the making, and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and the American Soybean Association (ASA) have released statements celebrating the upcoming implementation of the KORUS FTA.

Earlier this week U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that the KORUS FTA will be implemented on March 15, five months after being approved by Congress.  On that date, nearly two-thirds of U.S. agricultural exports to South Korea will become duty free.

Chad Blindauer, chair of NCGA’s Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action team, pointed to the possibilities KORUS brings to corn growers.

"We are very pleased to see the USTR announce movement on the U.S.-Korea FTA,” Blindauer said in a news release. “Full implementation of all three free trade agreements that were passed by Congress last October will help support thousands of jobs throughout America. Developing new markets for our country’s agricultural products is vital to producer income and also helps our sector lead the nation in economic growth and international competitiveness.”

ASA President Steve Wellman, a Nebraska soybean producer, also commented on the opportunities for soybeans and other U.S. agricultural exports.

"This free trade agreement creates landmark opportunities for soybeans and other U.S. agricultural exports, including meat and poultry," Wellman said in a news release. "Trade agreements that significantly improve access to foreign markets for these products are a main focus of ASA’s efforts in Washington, and we appreciate the efforts of the administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and USDA in seeing the free trade agreement with South Korea enacted next month."

South Korea is currently the United States’ third largest corn market, having imported 241 million bushels of U.S. corn in marketing year 2010-2011.

Soybeans and soybean products are the largest U.S. export commodity, totaling nearly 1.5 billion bushels in 2011 with a value of more than $22 billion. In that same year, South Korea imported $362 million worth of soybeans and soy products from the United States, making it the eighth largest U.S. soybean export market. South Korea also purchased $1.2 billion in meat products from the United States in 2011, making it a large and growing market for U.S. meat producers.

Passage last year of the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama represented the largest trade package since Congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. Statistics show full implementation of the agreements will result in an estimated $2.3 billion in additional agricultural trade in 2012 and beyond.  In addition, nearly 20,000 domestic jobs will be supported.