Pressure from the National Pork Producers Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation is mounting on Congress for speedy approval of Free-Trade Agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. For the third time in little more than a month, the NPPC testified before Congress in support of the pending trade agreements that are expected to add significantly to the bottom line of pork producers and farmers.

At a House Agriculture Committee hearing Thursday, NPPC urged passage of the FTAs. The trade deals, when fully implemented, will generate more than $770 million in additional pork exports, increase hog prices by more than $11 per head, according to NPPC estimates. The trade deals also will create more than 10,000 U.S. pork industry jobs, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.

Also testifying at the hearing was American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “The inability of Congress and the administration to move the three stalled free trade agreements is hurting U.S. economic growth,” said Stallman. “Combined, the Korea, Colombia and Panama agreements would add nearly an additional $2.5 billion to the U.S. economy through agricultural trade.”

According to AFBF, when fully implemented, the South Korea free trade agreement would trigger $1.9 billion annually in agriculture exports. Gains in exports through the Colombia agreement are estimated at $370 million, while the Panama agreement is estimated to increase U.S. agricultural exports to more than $46 million. “These trade agreements are not only important to the bottom line of America’s farmers and ranchers but the economic health of our rural communities and the overall U.S. economy,” said Stallman.

The USDA estimates that every billion dollars in agricultural exports supports 9,000 U.S. jobs. By passing all three FTAs, up to 22,500 new U.S. jobs could be created.

Billions of dollars are being lost in exports to U.S. competitors while the agreements have been stalled awaiting approval, according to AFBF. “The U.S. government’s inaction has allowed our competitors to move in and displace agricultural product,” said Stallman. “The debate is no longer simply about generating potential export gains but about how to prevent the loss of existing export markets.”

Sam Carney, immediate past president of NPPC, testified on behalf of the organization. “We need to approve these FTAs as soon as possible because other pork exporting competitors, like the European Union and Canada, are moving forward with their own FTAs with those countries.”

“Losing these markets would mean lost value to the hogs I sell, which would translate into less profits and ultimately lost jobs,” added Carney, who also is chairman of NPPC’s trade policy committee.

“To continue as leaders in the global and domestic economies,” Carney concluded, “the U.S. pork industry needs free and fair trade and domestic policies that support America’s pork producers.”

Source: AFBF, NPPC