The Senate Finance Committee is moving forward with a mock markup of the Korea, Colombia and Panama Free Trade Agreements Thursday. American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman says the three FTAs represent nearly $2.5 billion in new ag exports, could generate support for up to 22,500 U.S. jobs and would eliminate trade tariffs that plague U.S. farmers and ranchers. AFBF and the National Pork Producers Council are both urging Congress to act swiftly and pass the bipartisan FTAs by the August recess. Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says losing this opening will come at a cost to the nation's farmers and ranchers.
NPPC President Doug Wolf says pork producers need new and expanded market access to remain competitive in the global marketplace, which would happen through the FTAs. The pending agreements would add more than $11 to the price pork producers receive for each hog and generate more than 10,000 jobs. Exports are vital to the U.S. pork industry, which shipped nearly $4.8 billion pork last year. Wolf says these FTAs need to be implemented now.
House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp, R-Mich., who made the deal with Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus, D-Mont., to move ahead says it's not certain the House will join Baucus in holding hearings on the three FTAs in their present form. Both Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Top Finance Republican Orrin Hatch will oppose the inclusion of expensive help for laid off workers in the Korea trade deal.
"We know that a lot of the House numbers are not happy and we know Chairman Camp has been a part of those negotiations and has put out his own statement moving forward here," said National Cattlemen's Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall. "What we know right now is the benefits of all three of these agreements far outweigh what the short-term impact is going to be of Trade Adjustment Assistance.”
Woodall claims that despite the billion dollar or so price tag to renew expired TAA, there's enough House support to move forward, based on NCBA's talks with key members.
"When you look at this extension of TAA it is reverting back to 2002 and 2009 levels and it also has a specific end date," Woodall said. "We think that is what it is going to take to get these Republicans to finally say all right let's just get this done and move forward. I think that we still have that on the House and I think we're going to have it on the Senate.”
Woodall argues the estimated $2.5 billion and more than 22,000 added jobs for ag is too much to give up over a short-term extension of TAA demanded by the White House.