Following is a joint statement from U.S. Wheat Associates Chairman Don Schieber, a wheat grower from Ponca City, OK, and National Association of Wheat Growers President Wayne Hurst, a wheat grower from Burley, ID:

The U.S. wheat industry applauds Ambassador Kirk's announcement that the Obama Administration is ready to take the next steps toward ratification of the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement (FTA), following Panama's ratification of the U.S.-Panama Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA).

We congratulate the Government of Panama for their steadfast commitment to free trade and their actions to ensure successful implementation of this agreement.

We also congratulate President Barack Obama for his administration's successful efforts to overcome their concerns with the agreement for it to move forward. We thank Members of Congress for their continued support for this pact with one of the United States' strongest allies in Latin America. U.S. wheat industry leaders also deserve recognition for their tireless efforts to support the U.S.-Panama FTA as part of their commitment to free trade.

This agreement, along with the pending free trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea, will increase trade opportunities, create jobs in the United States and allow U.S. wheat growers to compete on equal terms in these markets.

The U.S. wheat industry encourages all parties to begin the process of implementing all three free trade agreements.

USW is the industry's market development organization working in more than 100 countries on behalf of America's wheat producers. The activities of USW are made possible by producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and through cost-share funding provided by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org or contact your state wheat commission.