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For Immediate Release

Ark. Farm Bureau Officers Visit Korea, China

Enhancing Agricultural Trade Opportunities Purpose of Mission

7/8/2011 at 12:00 a.m.

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Farm Bureau’s officers returned in early July from a trade mission to Korea fully convinced of the need for Congress to pass pending free trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Columbia.

Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach of Manila (Mississippi County), Vice President Rich Hillman of Carlisle (Lonoke County) and Secretary/Treasurer Tom Jones of Pottsville (Pope County) went to Korea and China to meet with government officials, food importers and regulatory authorities. The intent was to increase awareness of Arkansas agricultural products, and establish a trust-based relationship with the decision makers in those countries.

“All trade is based on trust and relationships,” said Veach, a cotton, rice and soybean farmer. “Every place we went, we identified ourselves first as farmers. That was very well received. They want to talk to the people who raise the livestock and grow the crops, so they know that the agricultural products they are buying come from someone they trust.

“That was probably the No. 1 priority of this trip, and I believe we were successful in that mission.”

The Korea Free Trade Agreement is one of three awaiting passage by the U.S. Congress, along with trade pacts with Panama and Columbia. The pending agreements are now moving forward in the Senate Finance Committee, as well as the House Ways and Means Committee.

The committees have each approved the agreements through the mock markup process. The Obama administration must now formally submit the implementing legislation to Capitol Hill for a Congressional vote. That action is expected to happen the week of July 11, according to Veach, with the hopeful passage of the agreements before the August recess.

Arkansas Farm Bureau’s trade advisory committee traveled to Washington, D.C. last month, and received commitments from each member of the Arkansas Congressional delegation of their support for passage of the FTAs.

 “The United States has sat on the three pending trade agreements for almost four years, mostly for political reasons,” Veach said. “While we have done that, free trade agreements between other countries have been signed, and the U.S. has lost some of its competitive advantage because of that.

“We had a great meeting with Ted Taeho Lee, Korea’s director general for FTA policy. He was very clear to us. The European Union already has an enacted FTA with Korea that went into effect July 1, and Australia is knocking on Korea’s door, ready to strike an agreement with Korea as well. If Australia were to get an FTA in advance of the U.S., our country would be behind on tariff reductions for 15 years.

“The window for the United States to get an FTA agreement with Korea grows smaller each day. To miss that opportunity would be especially impactful to American agriculture.”

The Korea FTA will provide an opportunity for the U.S. to expand exports of grains, oilseeds, fiber, fruits and vegetables and livestock products. Arkansas poultry exports to Korea are expected to increase annually by $5.3 million. Increased exports of processed food and fish to Korea will have an $8 million impact in Arkansas, and beef exports from our state are expected to increase by $6.2 million.

“By eliminating tariffs and other barriers on many of Arkansas’ agricultural products going into these countries, the agreements will increase trade for a range of agricultural products, including beef, poultry, rice, soybeans and processed food products,” Veach said. “These export sales make an important contribution to Arkansas’ farm economy, which represents the largest industry sector in our state.”

In total, the three FTAs are expected to increase direct exports from Arkansas by $56 million annually. It is estimated the increased marketing opportunities for Arkansas’ farmers and ranchers will add nearly 500 jobs to the Arkansas economy, if the three free trade agreements are passed.

Nationally, the three FTAs represent nearly $3 billion in new agricultural exports for the United States, with more than half of that total attributable to expanded trade with Korea.

Veach said trade with other nations is especially critical to Arkansas, with nearly one-fourth of the $16 billion annually generated by agricultural sales resulting from foreign trade “For Arkansas farmers, trade matters,” Veach said.


Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Arkansas Farm Bureau's officers met with Ted Taeho Lee, director general for FTA policy with the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Director Lee encouraged the Arkansas group to help promote passage of the pending Korea Free Trade Agreement.


Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Click Photo for High Resolution Version

The group visited Incheon Container Terminal Company, one of the largest distribution hubs in the world. Harry H.G. Lim, operations team manager, discusses the capacity of the yard with Arkansas Farm Bureau's officers.


Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Click Photo for High Resolution Version

Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach and Vice President Rich Hillman discuss rice farming practices with a Korean counterpart during a visit to a state-subsidized rice field outside of Seoul, Korea.


Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private advocacy organization of almost 220,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.


For more information contact:

Steve Eddington
(501) 228-1383
PO Box 31, Little Rock 72203


Gregg Patterson
(501) 228-1282
PO Box 31, Little Rock 72203

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