Source: North Dakota Wheat Commission

U.S. wheat producers have a lot to lose if Congressional ratification of the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia continues to be delayed. Colombia is the eighth largest market for U.S. wheat this marketing year with sales of 21 million bushels, and Colombian millers have stated their preference for U.S. wheat. In an address before the Joint International Trade Committee at a recent meeting of U.S. Wheat Associates and National Association of Wheat Growers in Washington, D.C., Colombia's Ambassador to the United States, Gabriel Silva, emphasized the importance of quick passage of a pending free trade agreement. The agreement has been put on hold by the U.S. due to ongoing concerns over environmental, human rights and trade union issues. However, Ambassador Silva said Colombia is moving on with FTA's involving other trading partners to ensure its economic future. The EU and Canada have resolved their concerns and now look forward to expanded trade opportunities.

Describing his country's economic growth and need for agricultural goods in detail, he indicated Colombia is one of the most important markets for U.S. agricultural products, larger than either India or China. In 2008, Colombia was the 15th largest market for U.S. agricultural products and the eighth largest for U.S. corn, wheat, soybeans, but there has been a precipitous decline in U.S. market share for agricultural goods in Colombia, falling from 46 percent in 2008 to barely 20 percent in 2010. Canada's share has risen slightly and is expected to grow more rapidly in the coming year with the implementation of their own FTA with Colombia. U.S. wheat exports to Colombia could fall by 50 percent without an agreement.

NDWC chairman Harlan Klein said, "U.S. Wheat Associates and NAWG have pushed hard for the U.S.-Colombia FTA, which would prevent the loss of up to $100 million in sales of wheat per year and more importantly allow future increases in market share in a country that is growing in affluence and influence." The U.S. must move forward with finalizing this important FTA, which was signed more than four years ago, but has been held up by Congress. "Other trading partners like our competitors, Canada and the EU have found Colombia to be a good trade opportunity and have moved forward, so should the United States," said Klein.