At last, sadly, the day has come and gone when the United States government has ignored the rational pleas of its citizens and businesses and handed an unnecessary advantage to countries that compete with us in world trade.

On Monday, the Colombia/Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) entered into force. It is an agreement first signed on Nov. 21, 2008, nearly two years to the day after a U.S.-Colombia FTA was signed.

Now most Canadian industries enjoy duty-free access to the growing Colombian market. In contrast, because our government has allowed our FTA to languish, Colombian importers must still pay tariffs on most U.S. goods.

For wheat, that tariff overcomes the natural advantage U.S. exporters otherwise have in providing quality wheat on a timely basis to our valued Colombian customers.  

The stakes are particularly high for U.S. farmers as roughly 50 percent of U.S. wheat and 25 percent of all U.S. agricultural production is exported.

In 2010/11, the United States exported more than 35 million metric tons (MT) of wheat — roughly 60 percent of last year's production — to about 70 countries.

The United States is the largest supplier of wheat to the world and these exports provide worldwide customers with a competitive wheat source while returning an economic boost to the U.S. economy.

The U.S. wheat industry has worked hard to build a reputation as a reliable supplier. While American farms are largely family-run operations, they are businesses that understand the importance of trade to their customers.

The U.S. wheat industry has a long history of promoting fair and open trade and looks forward to implementing pending and future trade agreements such as the nine-country TransPacific Partnership agreement to maintain its competitiveness in world markets.

We can only hope our customers in Colombia, as well as in South Korea and Panama, understand this situation for what it is: a domestic political struggle that accomplishes only confusion, frustration and diminished trust.

U.S. wheat farmers will not give up on trade and once more call for the immediate ratification and implementation of the U.S.-Colombia FTA so U.S. producers and our Colombian customers can benefit from bilateral trade conducted on a level playing field.