Colombia Trade Gets Farmer Scrutiny

Two soybean farmers go on a fact-finding mission to the South American country.

Published on: May 26, 2009

The pending free trade agreement for Colombia could increase market access for soy products, but what would the impact really be? That was one of the goals of a fact-finding mission conducted by two U.S. soybean farmers that participated in a Free Trade Agreement fact-finding mission to the South American country last week. The trip included United Soybean Board Communications Chair Vanessa Kummer, who is also a Colfax, N.D. farmer.

The trip included meetings with government officials, business leaders, union representatives and displaced workers that have been employed by social programs coordinated between the Colombian government and the United States Agency for International Development.

“This trip has really shown me the potential benefits of a FTA with Colombia,” Dennis Jaeger, an American Soybean Association board member from South Dakota, said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve been very impressed with Colombia and its people. They are very passionate about maintaining and improving their relationship with the United States through the free trade agreement.”

Adds Kummer: “The Colombian government and its businesses have made great strides to include corporate social responsibility in their efforts to reintegrate the rural populations into the country."

Colombia proves to be a large customer for U.S. soybean products. It is the largest market for U.S. agricultural products in the Americas outside of NAFTA. Without the agreement, U.S. agriculture could lose its dominance in the market, according to a USB statement. Colombia is finalizing trade agreements with Canada and has already completed agreements with Chile, the Andean countries and MERCOSUR. The Colombian government has already indicated that more bilateral agreements will come.

More than 90% of Colombia's total exports enter the United States and 99.5% of its ag exports enter duty free because of existing trade preferences granted Andean countries under the Andean Trade Preference Act. The Colombia TPA could eliminate duties on U.S. exports to the country and provide more balanced trade.