Kansas Senators Say Colombia FTA is Critical For Wheat Exports

Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are joining many in the agriculture industry in calling for the Obama administration to submit the stalled free trade agreement with Colombia to Congress for approval.

Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are joining many in the agriculture industry in calling for the Obama administration to submit the stalled free trade agreement with Colombia to Congress for approval.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the two point out that the pending U.S.-Colombia FTA is critical for Kansas wheat producers. Brownback and Roberts were responding to recent statements by President Obama calling for the Colombia and Panama FTAs to be submitted to Congress as soon as possible.

"We agree with the president that this agreement should be submitted to Congress for approval as soon as possible," the senators wrote, noting that Kansas is the largest wheat-producing state. On average, Kansas produces nearly one-fifth of the nation's wheat, they said.

The impetus for the recent flurry of activity on trade with Colombia is the similar agreement between Canada and Colombia that was recently ratified. "As our primary competitor in wheat production, this trade agreement gives Canadian growers a significant competitive advantage in this growing market," the senators say.

Without the FTA, the United States stands to lose $70 million in sales to Colombia , which totaled $330 million in 2008 according to estimates by the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates.

The U.S.-Colombia FTA was signed over three years ago. While the FTA has been approved in Colombia , with amended labor and environmental provisions, the Democratic-led U.S. Congress has consistently called for more progress on labor rights and violence against trade unionists.

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