Ag Leaders Say Free Trade Agreements will Help Nebraska

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

Curt Friesen's cornfields south of Aurora are more than 1,000 miles away from Washington DC, but the free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Columbia that were approved there by Congress have producers across the state celebrating.

Friesen, the Nebraska Corn Board's District 3 director, says the passing of the FTAs is a home run for the state.

"In Nebraska especially we produce way more grain and red meat products than we can possibly consume here, so we're very dependent on export," he said.

These agreements mean that the US can export to those countries without paying tariffs, a factor that producers believe will drive export numbers up.

Congressman Adrian Smith, a long-time proponent of the FTAs, says they'll also create jobs.

"Both parties can agree that this does create new jobs, not only for farmers and ranchers, but also for manufacturing and businesses of all kinds," Smith said.

Friesen says the agreement with South Korea is important for Nebraska. Not only are they the US' third largest corn customer, they have a big interest in US beef, an industry that paid over $200 million in tariffs to the country last year.

"This free trade agreement, especially with Korea, is going to increase exports in corn [and] red meat products, and they'll all be able to get imported duty free," he said.

Nebraska Senators Mike Johanns and Ben Nelson have also hailed the passage of the agreements. Nelson says 1,100 new jobs in agriculture will pump over $120 million into Nebraska's economy each year.

"With all the talk about the need to create jobs in our struggling national economy, in this one concrete way, by breaking down barriers, we're getting the job done," said Nelson.

"This is how you create jobs in America. Our country's Ag producers have been waiting patiently for more than four years for this day, and I'm very happy to finally vote for these trade agreements to unleash their job-creating potential," Johanns said.

Some of the tariffs those agreements cover will be dropped right away, while others will be phased out over time. Friesen estimates the full impact of the free trade agreements will be felt by Nebraska in the next three to four years.

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