Washington, D.C.(May 11, 2011)—“With hearings this week in both the House and Senate, Congress and the Administration should be commended for taking key steps in the process to finally approve the pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. It is our hope that discussions between the Administration and congressional leadership will progress quickly so that implementing legislation on the three FTAs can pass Congress sometime this summer.
“Farmer cooperatives and their member-owners have an enormous stake in seeing these agreements implemented in a timely manner. All three FTAs will help to facilitate increased access to key export markets for both commodities and processed products—from fruits and tree nuts to grains and oilseeds, to meat and dairy products.
“Trade is absolutely vital to the continued prosperity of co-ops and their farmer and rancher members—with over 95 percent of the world’s population living outside of the United States, our agricultural producers need foreign markets to grow demand.
“In addition, passage and implementation of the FTAs will help to level the playing field with our competitors. The longer that we delay these agreements, the greater the potential that American farmers and ranchers will lose market share to competitors. For example, Canada has signed and is implementing FTAs with both Colombia and Panama, while the European Union is in the process of implementing one with South Korea.
“While approval of these three FTAs is vital to American agriculture, so too are programs, such as the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, that provide cost share assistance to producer groups, farmer co-ops and small businesses looking to develop overseas markets for U.S. agricultural products. If the FTAs help open the door to U.S. trade, MAP and FMD help producers to take advantage of the opportunities that lie on the other side. Both the agreements and export promotion programs are vital tools to boosting exports and bringing down our trade deficit.”
Since 1929, NCFC has been the voice of America’s farmer cooperatives. Our members are regional and national farmer cooperatives, which are in turn composed of nearly 3,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country. NCFC members also include 26 state and regional councils of cooperatives. Farmer cooperatives allow individual farmers the ability to own and lead organizations that are essential for continued competitiveness in both the domestic and international markets.
America’s farmer-owned cooperatives provide a comprehensive array of services for their members. These diverse organizations handle, process and market virtually every type of agricultural commodity. They also provide farmers with access to infrastructure necessary to manufacture, distribute and sell a variety of farm inputs. Additionally, they provide credit and related financial services, including export financing.