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The tangible benefits of Congressional actions often take years to have an effect.
But some popcorn farmers have already seen a boon from the Colombia free-trade agreement. The deal, along with agreements with South Korea and Panama, was a major legislative initiative for President Barack Obama and an example of the handful of bipartisan agreements to make it through Congress this year. It’s undoubtedly an achievement likely to be touted by both parties this election cycle.
“These trade agreements prove Congress can work productively in a bipartisan way when our leaders are committed to sound policy over political theatrics,” said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), whose state is home to some of the nation’s largest popcorn producers.
And in signing the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank last week, Obama touted his efforts to get the trade pacts through Congress. “Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling American exports over five years. Today, with the trade agreements that we’ve signed into law, with the help of some ... Members of Congress, we’re making historic progress,” Obama said. “Soon, there are going to be millions of new customers for our goods and services in Korea, in Colombia and Panama. ... So I’m going to go anywhere I can in the world to create new markets for American goods.”
The Colombia FTA went into effect May 15, and on that day, Norm Krug, CEO and founder of the Chapman, Neb.-based Preferred Popcorn, got a call from a buyer in Colombia looking to buy enough popcorn for about 9 million people.
“We’ve sold them 10 containers of popcorn,” Krug said, adding that it takes about 900,000 people to consume one container.
“That was a direct result of the free-trade agreement,” Krug continued. “They and us are both equally excited about bringing the product in without excess taxation.”
Krug estimates that he will see a 50 percent increase in exports to Colombia, and other popcorn producers are expected to benefit.
The FTA eliminates most tariffs on goods and services between the two nations. More than 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia became duty-free immediately, with remaining tariffs phased out over 10 years.
Preferred Popcorn — owned by four farmers and the Aurora Cooperative, a Nebraska-based agriculture cooperative — typically sells to concessionaires, such as movie theaters.