Source: American Farm Bureau Federation

The American Farm Bureau Federation has continued its push for passage of the Colombia and Panama Trade Promotion Agreements. In a letter, AFBF President Bob Stallman urged House and Senate leadership to schedule a vote on the agreements during the lame duck session.

"Congressional action to pass these agreements will correct the current trade inequities brought on by U.S. preference programs and will result in U.S. agricultural export gains," wrote Stallman. "The Colombia and Panama TPAs represent U.S. agricultural export gains of more than $1 billion per year at full implementation."

Currently, Colombia and Panama face no tariff barriers on agricultural products entering the U.S. market. Products from these countries enter the United States duty-free through the Andean Trade Preference Act, passed and extended numerous times by this Congress. U.S. farmers on the other hand continue to face significant tariff barriers when exporting products to these two markets, on average 25 percent to 30 percent. Passage of the Colombia and Panama TPAs will eliminate the tariffs placed on U.S. products.

"While we in U.S. agriculture want to increase exports to these two countries, we also want to assure current market share is retained," Stallman said. "Major U.S. competitors such as Canada, and possibly the European Union, are pursuing their own trade agreements; unless the United States acts now to lock in the agreements these markets could be placed in jeopardy for our farmers."

Quoting a Washington Post editorial, Stallman said it's time to "level the playing field" for U.S. agriculture. By acting on both Colombia and Panama, "Congress has the opportunity to correct the current imbalance by voting on and approving these agreements," Stallman said.