Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia is the American Farm Bureau Federation’s top trade priority this year, said the organization in a statement sent to Congress last week.

AFBF submitted testimony to the Senate Finance Committee for its hearing looking at extending PNTR for Russia.

Long negotiations on Russia joining the World Trade Organization resulted in the country being able to enact many trade-related reforms. Russia is expected to complete the adoption of the measures and formally join the WTO this July.

But, PNTR for Russia must be enacted by Congress in order to guarantee U.S. access to the market opening and legal aspects that are part of the Russia-WTO agreement.

“Russia PNTR is a critical step towards ensuring the U.S. benefits from Russia’s accession to the WTO and remains competitive in that market,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.

“U.S. farmers will have more certain and predictable market access as a result of Russia’s commitment not to raise tariffs on any products above the negotiated rates and to apply international food safety standards in a uniform and transparent manner.”

Russia has a strong capacity for growth in food imports from the United States. U.S agricultural exports to Russia are forecast at $1.4 billion for 2012. Russia has potential for significant increases in poultry, pork and beef consumption, which were the top U.S. agricultural exports to the country in 2011.

“With this potential for expanding meat exports, obtaining PNTR with Russia is even more important,” said Stallman. “Russia’s membership in the WTO will provide significant commercial opportunities for U.S. agriculture.”