Leaders of the U.S. wheat industry are applauding President Barack Obama’s signing of three long-pending free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Chairman Randy Suess, a wheat farmer from Colfax, WA, and National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) President Wayne Hurst, a grower from Burley, ID, attended a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden, held to mark the occasion.

 “We are very pleased to see these FTAs signed into law and we have already started the push to win back the wheat export business we lost without them,” Suess says. Suess, Hurst and the boards of both organizations are now urging the Obama Administration to work closely with our trading partners to be sure the agreements enter into force as quickly as possible.

The delay in Congressional consideration of the agreements signed in 2006 and 2007 has hurt U.S. wheat export competitiveness, especially in the Colombian market, where duties on U.S. wheat directly affect flour millers. Like other import-dependent wheat buyers, Colombian millers want multiple suppliers and a variety of wheat classes with the characteristics they need.

The agreement gives that opportunity back to Colombia’s millers and puts U.S. wheat farmers back on equal footing (at least in terms of tariff advantages) with the CWB and Colombia’s MERCOSUR trading partner Argentina. The FTAs with Panama and South Korea also eliminate duties on U.S. wheat. While current tariffs do not significantly affect wheat exports to those countries, research commissioned by USW in 2010 showed that lowering barriers to trade increases the value and volume of all commodity exports.