The U.S. Grains Council salutes Congress on final passage of the long-stalled free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.

These agreements provide significant benefits for U.S. agricultural trade and the U.S. economy by leveling the playing field in markets where U.S. producers have been laboring under an unfair competitive disadvantage.

Ratification of the agreements provides for immediate duty-free access for most U.S. goods, creating opportunities for increases in U.S. agricultural exports which will generate economic growth and U.S. jobs.

The agreements are expected to generate roughly $13 billion in additional export revenue, with approximately $11 billion of the total flowing to South Korea.

"This is great news," said USGC Chairman Wendell Shauman. "Our farmer leaders have been working hard with Congressional members to demonstrate the benefits of U.S. agricultural trade. Their hard work has paid off."

Shauman and Thomas C. Dorr, USGC president and CEO, will travel to Colombia and Panama in the near future for meetings with private sector and governmental leaders aimed at regaining U.S. grain exports to the region.

U.S. agricultural exports have lost market share in both countries in recent years because other exporting countries have negotiated their own free-trade agreements, excluding the United States, while the U.S. trade agreements remained stalled.

In 2007, for example, Colombia imported 3 million tons of corn with the United States enjoying a 95 percent market share. In 2010, however, imports fell to 700,000 metric tons and U.S. market share shrunk to less than 20 percent.

"With a level playing field, the United States has an excellent chance of winning back these markets," said Shauman. “We have a shipping advantage from the Gulf Ports, and we have historically been a trusted partner and preferred provider for grain exports in the Caribbean Basin. It’s great to be back in the game."