Date: Oct 12, 2011

IRVINE, Calif. (Oct. 12, 2011)—Western Growers applauds the House and Senate passage of the Colombia, Panama, and Korea trade agreements, hailing the free trade agreements’ benefits to the fresh produce industry.

“We express gratitude for Congressional passage of these important export-expanding agreements that will make our farmers more competitive on the global stage," said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers. "We encourage the Obama Administration to expedite the implementation of these agreements so that our U.S. producers can begin reaping the benefits of these markets.”

California is the nation’s leading agricultural exporter. Nearly 20 percent of California’s agricultural production is exported to international markets annually, totaling more than $12.5 billion. Arizona agricultural exports exceed $625 million. Without the adoption of these agreements, California and Arizona farms may face the loss of market share as other countries enjoy various trade agreements. The U.S.- Korea FTA will provide the largest net export benefit to the U.S. specialty crop industry of any FTA. Korea is already the seventh largest export market for U.S. fruit, vegetables and tree nuts.

While Colombia enjoys duty-free access to our market on specialty crops, California and Arizona growers are subject to applied tariffs ranging anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent. For Panama, growers face tariffs ranging 5 percent to 15 percent. South Korea applies tariff rate quotas and maintains tariffs up to 50 percent on key specialty crops.

The free trade agreements will mean more than $2.3 billion in additional overall agricultural exports, supporting nearly 20,000 U.S. jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About Western Growers:

Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose members from Arizona and California grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in California and 75 percent of those commodities in Arizona. This totals about half of the nation’s fresh produce. Western Growers is headquartered in Irvine, Calif.

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