During informal mark-ups, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee approved three pending free trade agreements that will benefit the fresh produce industry. Trade pacts with the United States and South Korea, Panama and Colombia will help fresh produce farmers who depend on export markets throughout the world to compete on the global stage. After debating the agreements, both committees approved all three agreements.

“We applaud the Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee for their approval of these agreements. While this is only the first step in the process, it’s clear that these free trade agreements will give our family farmers the competitive advantage they need for success in key international markets,” said Ken Barbic, director of federal government affairs for 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.

“Exports are essential to high value, specialty crop commodities from California, Arizona and the rest of the country,” Barbic said. “We hope the Congress will quickly approve these agreements, so U.S. producers can reap the benefits.”