The USA Rice Federation has called on Congress to approve the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

“This free trade agreement is one of the best bilateral trade deals negotiated for U.S. rice,” USA Rice Federation Chairman Al Montna said. “We urge Congress to look at the merits of this agreement and to vote their approval,” said Montna, a California rice producer.

“While rice was very sensitive for Colombia and the agreement has a long transition period to free trade, U.S. rice producers and exporters picked up significant near-term gains via a large, duty-free, tariff rate quota,” said Tommy Hoskyn, a Stuttgart, Arkansas, rice producer and chairman of the USA Rice Producers' Group, a member organization of the USA Rice Federation.

President Bush transmitted the free trade agreement to Congress Monday, starting the “clock ticking” under provisions of Trade Promotion Authority, frequently called “fast-track.” The House will take up the measure first and has 60 legislative days to vote. Another 30 legislative days are permitted for Senate consideration. Congress must vote its approval for the FTA to come into effect.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said, “I believe the pending U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is a win-win for both countries. Colombia benefits from a trading relationship with the United States, and more importantly, our American businesses and agricultural producers are given access to Colombian markets.

“It is unfortunate that the President would jeopardize this important agreement by offering it before Congress expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which provides assistance to workers who lose jobs due to trade.”