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Agriculture Today

A sure-fire solution to America’s job problem

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October 5, 2011 | 2,762 views | Post a comment

By Joe Parker Jr.

If there is one thing politicians can agree on, it is that America’s current economic and job situation is downright bad, and we need to do something immediately to begin fixing it. Ratifying the stalled free trade agreements (FTA) with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea is one sure-fire way to give this economy the boost it needs without a taxpayer-funded stimulus.

Texas beef producers know how important free and fair trade agreements are to our nation’s economy. With 95 percent of the world’s population living outside the United States, common sense tells us that gaining access to that population benefits all American industries.

In 2007, the United States signed free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea, but we have yet to live up to our part of the agreements. Congress and the administration have sat idle on these FTAs for four years, causing American agriculture and other industries to lose valuable ground in markets where our competitors have been capitalizing.

Regaining broader access to markets in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea will increase exports by nearly $3 billion. Right now, demand for U.S. beef in South Korea alone has increased by 140 percent since 2009. Unfortunately, U.S. beef is hit with a 40-percent tariff before it reaches South Korean markets. Ratifying this free trade agreement will eliminate the tariff and allow U.S. beef to be available to more South Korean consumers at a more affordable price.

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the implementation of these three pending trade agreements would increase all U.S. exports to by at least $13 billion and add $10 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Additionally, exports of U.S. goods generate more than 8,000 U.S. jobs for every billion dollars shipped overseas.

It’s simple -- more trade means more jobs, and that is a fact Congress and the administration can’t ignore.

Doing nothing on these free trade agreements is no longer an option. It has already caused the United States to lose out on economic stimulus and thousands of jobs, but it also threatens to hurt our credibility with other global markets which want to import American products. If we can’t be trusted to live up to our end of the deal, then no other country will want to make deals with us.

Lastly, we can’t forget that Texas is facing an unprecedented drought. The Texas AgriLife Extension Service estimates the livestock industry in Texas has lost more than $2 billion. If Congress will pass the pending free trade agreements, there will be a hungry market waiting for Texas beef when it finally rains and folks start rebuilding their herds.

One thing is certain, if Washington is serious about creating jobs and lifting the United States out of this economic rut, they should pass the pending free trade agreements. Expanding new market opportunities leads to more American jobs and a more prosperous nation -- and that is something we simply can’t afford to wait for any longer.

Joe Parker Jr. is a third-generation rancher from Clay County, Texas. He is president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He is also chairman of the board and president of the First National Bank of Byers.

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