News Update
Feb. 28, 2006


U.S., Colombia Make Free Trade Agreement

U.S. and Colombian negotiators yesterday concluded free-trade agreement (FTA) negotiations that, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says, will open new export opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

According to a statement released by Johanns, Colombia is the second-largest agricultural market in Latin America, accounting for $677 million in sales of wheat, coarse grains, cotton and soybeans, among many others.

“As many products from Colombia already enter the U.S. duty-free under the Andean Trade Preference Act, this agreement will help to level the playing field for our producers by eliminating tariffs and nontariff barriers for U.S. agricultural products,” Johanns said.

Under the agreement, U.S. farm exports to Colombia receiving immediate duty-free treatment include beef, cotton, wheat, soybeans, soybean meal, apples, pears, peaches, cherries and many processed food products.

“Opening the Colombian market and increasing our two-way trade will strengthen our economic ties and also promote increased stability that will benefit all the nations of the Western Hemisphere,” Johanns said. “I look forward to working with Ambassador Portman and Congress to secure passage of this landmark agreement.”

Arizona Bill Aims to Restrict Ag Regulations

Sen. Jake Flake (R-Ariz.) is sponsoring a bill calling for a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would ban new laws regulating the agriculture industry, The Associated Press reported.

Backers of the bill argue that the agriculture industry is so complex, it shouldn’t be regulated by those without a background in the subject. According to AP, the bill, which has made it past two Senate committees, would prohibit any new laws or regulations that “limit or restrict the production of agricultural products” except in circumstances regarding such issues as public health and water use.

The constitutional amendment is meant to combat measures being proposed by special interest groups; however, some critics call the bill absurd, arguing that it puts an industry out of reach of citizens or legislature.

The bill is expected to be considered for preliminary approval by the Senate this week, the article noted, and, if passed, would go before voters in November.

— compiled by Crystal Albers, Angus Productions Inc.

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