Farmers will benefit from completion of trade agreements, including pending bi-lateral agreements as well as the Doha Round of WTO.

“We have to get free trade done,” says Barry Flinchbaugh, professor of agricultural economics and farm policy at Kansas State University.

Flinchbaugh and Charlie Stenholm, former ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee and currently a consultant for ag and other rural America interests as policy advisor for the law firm Olsson, Frank and Weeda, engaged in a good natured debate recently in Fort Worth during the annual Ag Media Summit.

“I agree with Barry on trade,” Stenholm said. “We are in an international marketplace and we need to adapt to that. But we have to be careful how we do it.”

He said open trade is a better option and a more reachable goal than free trade. “I’m hopeful that Congress will approve (bi-lateral) agreements with Panama and Columbia and set the pattern to get WTO done. We need an agreement. It will be in our best interest.”

Flinchbaugh said the Columbia Free Trade Agreement would benefit U.S. industries, including agriculture, without giving anything away. “It would allow our goods to go into Columbia duty-free. If it’s not passed, wheat sales to Columbia could decline by 50 percent. It’s time to pass it.”