The increasingly bitter fight over a free trade agreement between Columbia and the U.S. has stirred farm groups. The Bush administration signed the pact over a year ago and is now asking Congress to ratify the agreement. USDA Secretary Ed Schafer says the deal could increase ag sales by $700 million. President Bush said the new deal would allow US agriculture goods to enter Columbia duty free.

R-CALF USA, meanwhile, opposes the pact. The upstart group of ranchers and cattle producers say the new deal would “limit inspections and safety requirements for food imported into the U.S.” “The Colombia FTA will only worsen what’s already a precarious situation because the goal of this agreement is to facilitate imports into the U.S., which will result not only in an increased food safety risk, but also economic harm to U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers,” according to R-CALF official Eric Nelson.

Meanwhile, National Farmers Union President Tom Buis issued a statement today saying it was “premature” to consider the Columbian deal. “America’s farmers and ranchers produce the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply in the world,” Buis said. “Yet our trading partners are not required to meet our high labor, environmental, health and safety standards. Our current trade agreements have failed to live up to their promises.”

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