Neugebauer, the freshman congressman who replaced former Rep. Larry Combest, attended the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun as part of the House Agriculture Committee delegation.

Neugebauer, who said he went to the WTO negotiations to promote and defend the concerns of West Texas farmers who are increasingly victimized by unfair trading practices in other countries; he was encouraged that U.S. negotiators held their ground. Neugebauer called his experience eye-opening.

"The world is really starting to understand the importance of U.S. agriculture, U.S. Cotton, and U.S. Textiles,” he said. “Fair trade in more important than free trade. The US is not prepared to give away the farm when it comes to trade negotiations.

"Our West Texas farmers must be protected, and that's one of the issues we discussed in Cancun. While free trade has economic benefits, fair trade is more critical to expanding export markets for American farm products, and that's the message I delivered to our negotiating team."

The meetings came to an abrupt conclusion on Sept. 14 when four African countries submitted a proposal that would eliminate the U.S. cotton program. Neugebauer said Zoellick tried to persuade those country's representatives to broaden their proposal, but the talks fell apart at that point.

Neugebauer said that while agriculture was not the cause for the failure of negotiations, it was important to note that the U.S. came to Mexico with the willingness to ambitiously move forward on the three pillars of agriculture trade-domestic subsidies, export subsidies, and market access.

"Agriculture had a strong voice at the trading table and that is the most important thing,” he noted. “The skill of the negotiating team ensured that these meetings would in no way result in a bad deal for U.S. agriculture and our farmers."

Neugebauer also discussed with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte the possibility of hearings to assess the WTO negotiations after Cancun. One possible hearing will focus on types of subsidies and trade barriers that developing countries maintain in their own markets.

Neugebauer sits on the Agriculture Committee's Subcommittees on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture Programs, and Livestock and Horticulture.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com