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Montana Farm Bureau urges quick passage of Free Trade Agreements

The Montana Farm Bureau Federation thanks Senator Baucus for his hard work on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Baucus is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee which oversees international trade. Montana Farm Bureau leaders were recently in Washington, D.C. to discuss FTAs with all of our Congressmen.

The Montana Farm Bureau delegation met with Senator Max Baucus in Washington, D.C. to discuss Free Trade Agreements that could greatly benefit Montana’s economy: Pictured left to right are: MFBF Executive Vice President Jake Cummins, Janet Kalus Cummins, MFBF Vice President Bruce Wright, Senator Max Baucus and MFBF Director of Governmental Affairs John Youngberg.

“When you look at the amazing profits these three trade agreements bring to Montana’s economy, it’s imperative that these agreements get passed,” noted MFBF Vice President Bruce Wright. “The debate in Washington this week will hopefully be short-lived and a majority in Congress will vote to reduce the tariffs other countries are imposing on the agricultural products we are selling overseas.”

Wright reiterated how important these deals are to the Montana’s economy. “The three agreements in total are expected to increase direct exports from Montana alone by $26.9 million per year. The South Korean agreement would mean more than $12 million per year to the Montana beef industry and Columbia would equate to nearly $7 million in wheat trade per year for Montana alone,” the Bozeman farmer said. “It is estimated that the increased marketing opportunities for Montana’s farmers and ranchers will add nearly 250 jobs. By eliminating tariffs and other barriers on agricultural products going into Colombia, Korea and Panama, the agreements will particularly increase trade for a range of Montana agricultural products, including beef and wheat.”

Baucus told our Farm Bureau delegation that the process needs to move forward before the August recess, explaining that inaction in Free Trade Agreements over the past four years have benefited competitors.

“Every day we delay these trade agreements is another day American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses lose ground to competitors in other countries. While we stand still, the European Union’s trade agreement with Korea entered into force last Friday, and Canada’s agreement with Colombia will take effect next month, threatening to cut American farmers out of the wheat market altogether. We can’t afford to put American jobs in jeopardy any longer,” Baucus said.

The Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee completed a “mock markup” of the South Korea, Colombia and Panama free trade agreements last Thursday, which was a major first step in getting the deals through Congress and put into action. The ball is now in the administration’s court.

U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that every $1 billion in U.S. agriculture exports supports 9,000 jobs here in the United States. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates passage of the FTAs would create $2.5 billion in additional agricultural exports and 22,000 jobs in farm, food processing and related fields.

“Now it’s time for Congress to act quickly. Montana’s farmers and ranchers are depending on it,” concluded Wright.

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