In advance of a Senate Finance Committee hearing with United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk, the American Soybean Association (ASA), along with other representatives of the U.S. food and agriculture industry, reiterated support for swift passage of the pending U.S. trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama.

“These three trade agreements combined represent almost $3 billion dollars of additional agriculture exports to these trading partners,” said ASA First Vice-President Steve Wellman, a soybean producer from Syracuse, Neb. “These gains can only be realized by implementation of these three agreements.”

The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement provides a significant opportunity for the U.S. agriculture sector. According to economic forecasts completed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, when the agreement is fully implemented, increased exports of the major grain, oilseed, fiber, fruit and vegetable and livestock products are likely to exceed $1.8 billion annually. The Korea agreement will allow the United States to become a competitive supplier of agricultural products to South Korea by providing duty-free and reduced tariff access. Eliminating these tariff rates through the trade agreement would be extremely beneficial to the United States agricultural sector.

“The agreement offers immediate duty-free access to U.S. soybeans for crushing and to U.S. soybean meal,” according to Wellman. “And for the first time, producers of U.S. food-grade soybeans would have access to the South Korean market outside of the import monopoly created by the Korean State Trading Enterprise. Tariffs on refined soybean oil would be eliminated over 5 years, and tariffs on crude soybean oil would be eliminated over 10 years.

“Domestic demand for U.S. soybean meal will also increase because this agreement is expected to generate millions of dollars of new meat and poultry exports. Domestic livestock consumed 28 million metric tons of soybean meal in 2010, using nearly 80 percent of all the soybean meal processed in this country.”