From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Ambassador Ron Kirk, President Obama’s U.S. trade representative, recently paid a visit to North Carolina to tout the pending free trade agreement with South Korea. If enacted, the agreement could be a boon to North Carolina farmers by expanding a potentially lucrative export market.
I support the Korean trade agreement because of the potential for this trade agreement to help North Carolina farmers. The president has instructed Kirk to complete the agreement by November.
It was an honor to play host to Ambassador Kirk and members of his staff at two stops in Cabarrus County. First, we visited Tommy and Vicky Porter’s poultry and livestock farm in Concord.
After that visit, we met with a group of farmers at a restaurant in Mount Pleasant. The farmers, representing producers of tobacco, row crops, sweet potatoes and livestock, quizzed Kirk about trade issues. Above all, they asked that Kirk’s office work to have fair trade with other countries.
As readers may remember from one of my previous columns, North Carolina’s agricultural exports topped $3 billion for the first time in 2008, representing a significant boost to the state’s agriculture and agribusiness industry. Fair trade is critical to our producers’ success now and in the future.
I am hopeful that we will see our export numbers continue to climb as a result of some recent trade missions.
Besides the Korean trade agreement, other topics discussed in the farmers meeting with Kirk included Canada’s recent banning of 5,000 flavorings in tobacco products.
The latter issue is of major concern to growers of burley tobacco. Burley tobacco loses sugar during the curing process, leaving it with a bitter flavor.
Flavoring added in marketing counters the bitterness. Canda’s actions set a precedent that could affect exports of burley. As much as 80 percent of the U.S. buryley crop is exported.
Kirk said he would monitor the burley issue and would intervene in cases of discrimination against the U.S.