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Ohio producers try to get early results from CAFTA
By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
Ohio Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio trade mission has returned from Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic where they explored opportunities for exports under the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

The Dominican Republic has ratified CAFTA and is implementing it. Costa Rica is expected to ratify it as early as February 2007, said ODA Director Fred Dailey.

“The reason for the trip was to get in on the ground floor of the Central American market as CAFTA will open up new market opportunities for Ohio’s farmers,” Dailey said.

The group put on a seminar in each country. They talked about hybrid vigor and the advantage of crossbreeding with either English or European cattle, Dailey said.

“They understand the value of crossbreeding and having good genetics and so they were very interested,” he added.

Many of the 17 Ohioans on the tour were interested in marketing genetics.

In the Dominican Republic, the group visited the Granja Susana hog farm. They have 500 hogs and market genetics to other hog producers. Their basic seedstock came from Ohio. The genetics included Duroc hogs, which came from Tim Blain, Hollansburg; and Yorkshires, which came from Bill Funderberg, Greenville.

John Evans, Park Farms of Canton, was on the tour. He wanted to explore the marketing opportunities for chicken and chicken products.

“He was pleased with the market area,” Dailey said. “There are a number of sensitive areas that, even if they ratify CAFTA, the tariffs on those products will gradually be eliminated over a 15-20 year period to ease the concerns that the producers have in those countries.”

The trade mission visited the Dominican Agriculture Institution, which is a cooperative, Dailey said. It imports about $1.4 million metric tons of U.S. corn and also a substantial amount of soybean meal. Most of that comes from the Midwest.

“Ohio is in a good position to export those products because of our easy access to the Ohio River and the barges that would flow down to the Gulf,” Dailey said.

Another cooperative in the Dominican Republic just built a $17 million facility for importing grain and soybean meal from the Midwest. They were particularly interested in dried distillers’ grains.

“They know that there is more ethanol going into production in the Midwest and there will be more distiller’s grain,” Dailey said. “The price of corn has been going up and they believe that the market will be very competitive for distiller’s grain.”

Select Sires is already doing business in both countries. The dairy farms there have Holstein and Jersey cattle, Dailey said.

“They’re very fond of Jerseys,” he said. “The National Jersey Assoc. is headquartered in Ohio. In the past they had used genetics out of Europe and South Africa.

“So we were pitching Ohio agriculture products and once again we want to get in on the ground floor of this market, which we think is going to be a good market over time especially as CAFTA is implemented.”

When NAFTA was passed there was a lot of controversy, Dailey said. But Ohio’s exports of corn to Mexico have increased 2 1/2 times since 1993, and corn is one of the protected or more sensitive commodities. Central American countries have had almost free access to our country while U.S. farmers were being penalized, Dailey said.

“CAFTA essentially removed that penalty,” he said. “As it becomes fully ratified and implemented we think Central America is going to be a growing market for Ohio’s agricultural products and we want to develop a strong trading relationship with these countries.”

This farm news was published in the Dec. 6, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

12/6/2006