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Cattle, pork groups call for passage of trade agreements

With hearings on the pending U.S. free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and Korea starting this week, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council are calling for quick congressional approval of the pacts.

The NCBA has written President Obama and both houses of Congress urging quick action.

“Each day that goes by without implementing these agreements is another day we risk losing American jobs by losing market share to other countries," NCBA President Bill Donald, a Montana rancher, said in a statement.

“With 96 percent of the world’s consumers living outside of the United States, future growth of the U.S. economy depends upon our ability to produce and sell products competitively in the global marketplace,” said Donald. “Economic globalization is not simply a matter of ideological or political preference; it is a fundamental reality that will determine whether America remains an economic superpower or a secondary economic force.”

The National Pork Producers Council and 39 state pork associations sent a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, urged them to approve the three free trade agreements.

“Colombia, Panama and South Korea are crucial markets for U.S. agricultural products, and the industry stands to gain sales with implementation of the FTAs,” said NPPC President Doug Wolf, a pork producer from Lancaster, Wis.

“For the U.S. pork industry, the trade agreements with those countries will add significantly to producers’ bottom line and create thousands of pork industry jobs.”

In their letter, NPPC and the state pork associations state that if the trade agreements are not implemented, “these potential gains will become losses as we relinquish our export sales to countries that have implemented their own FTAs with Colombia, Panama and Korea.”

The U.S. share of the Colombian agricultural market has fallen to 27 percent in 2009 from 44 percent in 2007. Chile, through its 2004 agreement with South Korea, has increased its share of that market, NPPC said.