Statement Feb. 27 by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns regarding free trade agreement with Colombia:

"I applaud the hard work of the U.S. and Colombian negotiators who today concluded free trade agreement negotiations between the U.S. and Colombia that will open new export opportunities for our farmers and ranchers.

"Colombia is our second-largest agricultural market in Latin America, currently accounting for $677 million in sales of wheat, coarse grains, cotton and soybeans, among many others. As many products from Colombia already enter the U.S. duty-free under the Andean Trade Preference Act, this agreement will help to level the playing field for our producers by eliminating tariffs and non-tariff barriers for U.S. agricultural products.

"Under this agreement, U.S. farm exports to Colombia that will receive immediate duty-free treatment include beef, cotton, wheat, soybeans, soybean meal, apples, pears, peaches, cherries and many processed food products. In addition, many farm products will benefit from improved market access like pork, corn, poultry, fruits and vegetables and dairy products.

"Opening the Colombian market and increasing our two-way trade will strengthen our economic ties and also promote increased stability that will benefit all the nations of the Western Hemisphere. I look forward to working with Ambassador Portman and Congress to secure passage of this landmark agreement."

SOURCE: USDA news release.