Western Growers applauds the submission of the Korea, Colombia and Panama trade agreements by President Obama to Congress, hailing the free trade agreements’ benefits to the fresh produce industry. The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee will debate the agreements tomorrow and the entire House could vote on passage of the free trade deals as early as next week.

“We applaud the president's decision to transmit these free trade agreements to Congress. We now ask members of both parties to support quick passage of these export-expanding opportunities that will make our farmers more competitive on the global stage,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers.

California is the nation’s leading agricultural exporter. Nearly 20 percent of California’s agricultural production is exported to international markets annually, totaling more than $12.5 billion. Arizona agricultural exports exceed $625 million. Without the adoption of these agreements, California and Arizona farms may face the loss of market share as other countries enjoy various trade agreements. The U.S.-Korea FTA will provide the largest net export benefit to the U.S. specialty crop industry of any FTA. Korea is already the seventh largest export market for U.S. fruit, vegetables and tree nuts.

While Colombia enjoys duty-free access to our market on specialty crops, California and Arizona growers are subject to applied tariffs ranging anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent. For Panama, growers face tariffs ranging 5 percent to 15 percent. South Korea applies tariff rate quotas and maintains tariffs up to 50 percent on key specialty crops. 

The free trade agreements could mean more than $2.3 billion in additional overall agricultural exports, supporting nearly 20,000 U.S. jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.