At its annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas this week, National Farmers Union delegates adopted a special order of business opposing recent free-trade agreements, particularly the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement—or KORUS.

“Past free-trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and Central American Free Trade Agreement have not performed as promised for U.S. agriculture,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “KORUS replicates many of the most troubling provisions of NAFTA and CAFTA. Even more troubling is the fact that KORUS has no provisions to counter Korean currency manipulations.”

The NFU members argue that KORUS projects to increase the U.S. trade deficit and cost tens of thousands of jobs. However, not everyone in U.S. agriculture agrees. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that the KORUS FTA would $1.8 billion in additional U.S. agricultural export sales to the current $5 billion.

Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack again stressed the importance of the KORUS FTA to the U.S. economy, citing that it would support at least 70,000 new jobs, as well as strengthening long-term ties in the Asia/Pacific region. "Economic output is estimated to grow more under this agreement than from our last nine trade agreements combined," he said. "The U.S.-Korea trade agreement is a win not just for America's farmers and ranchers but for millions of Americans who depend on the farm economy for jobs and wages."

At it’s annual delegate meeting held in conjunction with the National Pork Industry Forum, National Pork Producer Council members expressed support for the KORUS FTA as well as separate ones for Columbia and Panama, also awaiting Congress’ final approval.

Specific to U.S. pork production, once fully implemented KORUS Free Trade Agreement could add $10 per animal to hog prices, according to Dermott Hayes, Iowa State University agricultural economist or $687 million total. Also, U.S. pork exports to the country are estimated to total 600,000 metric tons. That represents nearly twice the current pork export level sent to Japan, the No. 1 value market for the U.S. pork industry. According to the National Pork Producer’s figures, South Korea could absorb 5 percent of the U.S. annual pork production and create 9,000 direct U.S. pork industry jobs.

“The U.S. International Trade Commission predicts that the KORUS agreement would increase the U.S. trade deficit of $308 to $416 million,” said Johnson. “Further, the Economic Policy Institute forecasts that the agreement would cost 159,000 U.S. jobs in its first seven years. This would be a terrible deal for the U.S., one that NFU cannot support as it is currently written.”

NFU would support a trade agreement that addresses the issue of currency manipulation, according to an NFU news release. The agreement must also ensure all participating countries meet the International Labor Organization standards for labor, and products from such countries meet U.S. standards for environment, health, and food safety, it concluded..

Source: National Farmers Union