According to Sunday reports, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk expects the U.S./Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to be active on May 15.
For more, see here.
President Obama signed FTAs with Colombia, Panama and South Korea last Oct. 21. The South Korea deal is already in force and finalization of the Panama agreement is expected this summer.
One of the hold-ups for the Colombia deal has been criticism that the agreement is not sufficiently tough on violent opposition to labor rights in that country.
Last fall, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the FTAs would allow U.S. agriculture to gain “over $2.3 billion in additional exports, supporting nearly 20,000 jobs here at home. Passage of the agreements also levels the playing field and secures markets for America’s farmers, ranchers, growers and producers. Immediately upon implementation of these agreements, the majority of American products exported to Korea, Colombia and Panama will become duty-free.”
Enactment of the Colombia FTA "is a tremendous opportunity for soybean farmers, as it will expand a valuable export market for our products,” said American Soybean Association (ASA) First Vice President Danny Murphy, a soybean farmer from Canton, Miss. “We are making steady progress toward regaining lost market share in Colombia, and this agreement will markedly advance that progress."
The ASA says the deal will mean "more than half of all U.S. farm exports to Colombia -- including soybeans and soybean meal and flour -- will become duty-free, with virtually all of the remaining tariffs to be eliminated over the next 15 years. The agreement also provides duty free tariff rate quotas on soybean oil, as well as livestock and dairy exports that utilize soybean inputs.
For more on the FTAs, see here.
Farm bill buttons
To help goose efforts to pass a 2012 farm bill, Garry Niemeyer, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), is giving away buttons.
“I've heard enough ‘We can't get a farm bill done this year’ from folks in Washington -- and even from some in agriculture,” writes Niemeyer at the NCGA website. “It's only the beginning of April. We have eight months left in the year and seven until the election so that excuse won't work for us. We need to get a bill done this year - and it can be done.
“I have been wearing a button on my lapel for the past few weeks that says, ‘Farm Bill Now.’ I will send one to any farmer in America and any member of Congress if they write me and say that they are committed getting the job done. Let's pass a farm bill now -- I have plenty of buttons!”