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May 16, 2012 1:44 PM by Heath Heggem (KRTV Great Falls)

MT will benefit from US-Colombia free-trade agreement

A deal that is expected to increase American exports by more than $1 billion was announced on Tuesday and the Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia should leave its mark on Montana.

The agreement eliminates tariffs on products like wheat and barley, putting U.S. wheat farmers on equal footing with competitors in Canada and Argentina.

U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) helped pass the measure, and also took a group of Montanans to Colombia last year.

Lola Raska from the Montana Grain Growers Association was among those on the trip, and says that it will take a while for Montana producers to feel the impact of the agreement, but it will definitely be beneficial.

"Montana exports 80% of wheat we grow. The world market is absolutely important to us. The more markets we can open up, the more wheat we can move. That's better for the price in the long run," Raska noted.

Along with wheat and barley, manufactured products and beef will also enjoy reduced trade restrictions. The International Trade Commission estimates the deal will create thousands of jobs.

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