The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) benefits United States agriculture in many ways. The Office of the United States Trade Representative says in 2016, total U.S. agricultural exports to Korea amounted to $6.2 billion, making it the fifth largest agricultural market.
Two national organizations, working to increase opportunities for farmers, talk about how the agreement has benefited U.S. producers, as well as their hopes for the pact moving forward.
United States exports of feed grains to South Korea have steadily increased, reaching 8.32 million metric tons in 2016/2017. The 2016/2017 sales numbers represent a 56-percent increase year-over-year, as well as a six year-high for U.S. corn.
Wesley Spurlock serves as chairman for the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). Spurlock says NCGA and its producers finds KORUS to be valuable, especially during times of record crop production and low commodity prices.
“Our commodity prices have gotten lower and it’s (been) harder to make a profit. We need to keep our producers engaged in understanding the importance of trade. We have to keep trade going so we can become profitable again,” Spurlock said.
The United States Grains Council notes KORUS offers key market access provisions for United States feed grains and co-products, including immediate duty-free access for U.S. corn and sorghum exports. The agreement also provides a 2,500 ton duty-free quota for U.S. barely, which increases two-percent each year.
Deb Keller serves as chairman of the United States Grains Council (USGC). Keller says South Korea’s growing economy offers opportunities for growth.
“Besides the livestock and feed industry, we’re also looking at trying to break into the ethanol market,” Keller said. “Ethanol is imported into South Korea, but only as an industrial usage. We saw that they have air pollution quality problems while we were there. Ethanol fits very nicely into that program, so we will be doing some beginning work there in Korea to try and break into that market.”