Senate Ag Committee chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and 17 other U.S. Senator have written a letter to the President, supporting his pledge to double American exports and pass pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The President announced this goal during his State of the Union address. Lincoln says opening more markets for agricultural producers will help farmers and rural communities who have felt the devastating effects of the current economic climate.
Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also signed the letter to the President. He also wants to see funding for a retraining program to help workers displaced by trade and he is also - looking for action.
Grassley said he wants to see funding for the Community College and Career Training Grant Program. These grants are meant to help community colleges tailor programs to retrain workers displaced by trade to better meet the specific needs of employers in their communities. The program was authorized at $40 million per year, but the Democratic-led Congress has yet to fund it.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman has urged members of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee to take the lead in achieving President Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years. In a letter to the leadership of both committees, Stallman urged them to help the U.S. achieve the President's goal by passing the pending Colombia, Panama and Korea free trade agreements.
Stallman said passage of these agreements is critical at this time because many other countries are negotiating bilateral and regional trade agreements that are reducing U.S. agriculture's competitiveness and market share around the world. Stallman wrote that by 2010, there will be more than 600 bilateral and regional trade agreements worldwide with the U.S engaged in fewer than 25.
In the letter, Stallman noted that the drop in U.S. agricultural exports from 2008 to 2009 is estimated to have cost roughly 116,000 American jobs in the production, processing and transportation sectors. According to Farm Bureau estimates, the combined Colombia, Panama and Korea free trade agreements represent almost $3 billion in additional U.S. agricultural exports.