WASHINGTON – The US meat and poultry industry is growing impatient with the lack of progress in the US government securing pending free-trade agreements with other nations – particularly while competitive industries throughout the globe continue to make headway in this area.

“The future prosperity, growth and sustainability of America’s meat and poultry sector is invariably linked to the success we have in expanding our markets abroad. Unfortunately, time is of the essence, because our competitors are moving quickly to gain market access and consumer loyalty to many of the most lucrative export markets,” said J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president and CEO in recent submitted testimony to the US House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee during its hearing on pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

In 2010, AMI worked closely with the National Pork Producers Council, Iowa State University, ERS, US Meat Export Federation and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council to derive estimates on the impact of full implementation of these three FTAs on US exports and job creation, Boyle said. Results of the impact study found passage of the three FTAs currently pending — with South Korea, Colombia and Panama — would represent an additional $2.3 billion in exports and the creation of 29,524 new jobs.

“If we are determined to avoid this opportunity cost while helping to contribute to the President’s National Export Initiative of doubling exports in five years, we must pass, as soon as possible, the pending FTAs with Korea, Colombia and Panama,” Boyle told the Committee. “These three FTAs are the low hanging fruit on the tree, offering a relatively easy growth opportunity that is within our grasp to implement and start realizing benefits immediately.”

Recent progress made on the FTA with Korea (KORUS) is one sign of what can be accomplished with perseverance, Boyle said, adding it is estimated this agreement, when passed, would result in an additional 8,500 jobs for the poultry industry, 11,000 jobs for the pork industry and 17,000 jobs for the beef industry.

But as this agreement and others await Congressional approval, competitors are taking advantage, Boyle warned.

“In the economic times in which we find ourselves, when opportunity knocks, if you do not open your door before your competitor does, then you will miss an opportunity,” Boyle said. “In his first State of the Union address, President Obama correctly insisted that, ‘Jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010.’ We agree with him and believe that this also applies to 2011.

“Hopefully, Congress will be able to push past the political barriers that have blocked passage of these agreements in the past and demonstrate that our leaders in Washington have enough faith in the determination and ingenuity of the American people to allow us the opportunity to compete fairly in these highly sought after global markets. If Congress fails to do so, American agriculture will lose these opportunities to our competitors in other countries,” Boyle concluded.