Farm Bureau endorses Central America trade agreement
» May 2, 2005 «
Recognizing the importance of expanding trade opportunities, the California Farm Bureau Federation has endorsed the proposed free trade agreement between the United States and Central American nations. Farm Bureau says the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement will open markets for California farm goods.
"Without an agreement, Central American imports to the United States will continue to grow, while our exports to those nations remain stifled by the tariffs they impose," California Farm Bureau President Bill Pauli said. "In weighing the pluses and minuses to the agreement, our board determined that it would, in the long term, benefit California farmers and ranchers."
In a letter to California members of Congress, Pauli said the trade agreement would reduce barriers that limit sales of U.S. beef and dairy products to Central America and the Dominican Republic. He said the agreement also allows greater market access for a variety of other California-grown products. If the U.S. fails to act while competing nations sign agreements with Central America and the Dominican Republic, he said, the U.S. will be at a continued disadvantage when selling to those markets.
Nearly all agricultural products from Central America enter the U.S. duty-free, as a result of the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Unless the free-trade agreement passes, U.S. farm goods will continue to face tariffs of 15 percent to 43 percent when entering those nations.
But the Farm Bureau letter urges U.S. trade negotiators to "focus on markets that offer greater opportunities for California producers." Reducing trade barriers and domestic subsidies in the main export markets for California farm goods--Japan, the European Union and Korea--would provide greater benefits to the state's farmers and ranchers, it said.
Pauli said that recent trade agreements have created winners and losers among California farmers and ranchers--a situation that future negotiations must avoid.
"Trade negotiations must create agreements that advance agriculture as a primary objective," Pauli said. "Foreign producers continue to enjoy trade advantages that threaten our competitiveness. "
The California Farm Bureau Federation is the state's largest farm organization, representing 37,000 farm families statewide.
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