South Korea is one of the top five corn export markets for the United States, Colombia is poised to return to buying more U.S. corn and Panama is a growing market with potential.
Thanks to Congressional approval in October of trade agreements with all three countries, U.S. farmers will see improved market access and more opportunities, according to Tim Scheer, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board and producer from St. Paul.
"Trade is an important component of Nebraska agriculture. It provides good markets for corn and corn products," he says. "Yet it is also critical for livestock producers, as a growing amount of U.S. beef and pork makes its way to markets around the world."
"Approving these agreements is critical for the competitiveness of Nebraska and U.S. corn and other agricultural products, especially considering that other countries already have trade agreements in place or are negotiating them. We can't afford to step away from the table and lose market share."
The agreements eliminate or reduce import tariffs on many agricultural products, which means Nebraska and U.S. farmers and ranchers will have better access to markets in South Korea, Panama and Colombia.
"It means we'll be more competitive in their markets because the duty on our products will be eliminated or reduced," Scheer says. "It also means buyers in those countries will have better access to our products, as we are perhaps the most reliable supplier in the world, and that's good for them and their people."
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, Nebraska exported more than $5 billion worth of agricultural products in 2010, including $1.3 billion worth of corn and other feed grains.
Statistics show passage of the three trade agreements could create 250,000 American jobs and add an additional $13 billion annually in exports.
Gov. Dave Heineman and Nebraska's Agriculture Director Greg Ibach also offered positive remarks of the free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
"These three trade agreements hold great opportunity for increased Nebraska exports, particularly for our agricultural sector," says Heineman. "I am pleased that Congress and the administration finally were able to approve these measures which we will be pursuing at the state level."
These agreements provide new potential for a number of Nebraska commodities, including corn, soybeans, wheat, beef and pork. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture expects the increased trade will help Nebraska reach more than $5 billion in annual agriculture exports.