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Commissioner Strain welcomes new free trade agreements

October 13, 2011

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said the passage of three new free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama should provide a long-range boost for Louisiana agricultural producers.

“These free trade agreements could increase U.S. exports by $2.3 billion annually,” Strain said. “Any time new markets open up it should be a boost for agricultural exports.”

Strain, who also serves as the president of the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA), said the new pacts will benefit the states that are part of that trade group. SUSTA is a non-profit agricultural export trade development association comprised of the departments of agriculture of the 15 southern states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Its primary mission is to assist exporters of high-value food and agricultural products.

“The greatest agricultural growth in the future will be in the southern United States,” Strain said. “We have the resources and the transportation infrastructure to take full advantage of the new agreements.”

Strain said the U.S. International Trade Commission has estimated the agreements should double U.S. farm exports to Korea, to $3.8 billion annually, through increased sales of grains, fruits and vegetables, pork products and wine.

According reports from the United State Department of Agriculture, the current U.S. export forecast for fiscal year 2011 is $137 billion, $22 billion higher than the previous record set in 2008 and $28 billion above 2010.

“Strong exports have enabled agriculture to remain one of only a few sectors of the U.S. economy to enjoy a trade surplus,” Strain said. “The passage of these free trade agreements should really help agriculture in the Louisiana, the South and the United States overall.”