The rewards and challenges of trade will highlight a symposium for farmers and ranchers on the opening day of the World Ag Expo, Feb. 11 in Tulare, Calif.

The event, which kicks off the largest farm show on earth, is sponsored by the California Farm Bureau Federation.

“As the nation’s top farm export state, California has the most to gain or lose in the international marketplace. This symposium will bring into focus the significant opportunities and challenges that exist for California agriculture,” said CFBF President Bill Pauli. “The timing of this event is critical given the fact that several trade agreements are being negotiated by some of our competitors. We’re excited about the program and speakers.”

The event is co-chaired by Reps. Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield) and Cal Dooley (D-Hanford). Speakers include Pauli, Dooley and trade consultants James Christie of Bryant Christie Inc. and Bob Schramm of Schramm, Williams and Associates. An industry panel will discuss China trade issues.

Symposium topics include how agriculture fared in the 2001 World Trade Organization discussions, impacts on California agriculture from the proposed Free Trade of the Americas and trade issues relating to China’s recent entry into the WTO.

The symposium grew out of activities of the CFBF Trade Advisory Committee, a group of 13 county Farm Bureau leaders. The committee’s report on major trade issues recommended that it is “important for the industry to be actively engaged, with a very clear strategy” to achieve trade reforms that give California farmers greater trade opportunities in the future.

“California farm exports totaled nearly $7 billion in 1999, but stiff competition from foreign countries – much of it unfairly subsidized – and fluctuations in foreign currency and other factors threaten the health of farm exports from the Golden State,” said Pauli. “With agreements such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas being discussed, we have to be engaged in the process.”

The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) will cover a combined population of 800 million people (U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central and South America) and $3.4 trillion in world trade.

“FTAA is significant to California agriculture, both because of expanded trade opportunities for our farmers, but also for the potential impact from increased competition from imports,” said Pauli. “Discussions at the symposium will help attendees sort out the pluses and minuses of this agreement and others that are currently under negotiation.”

Other sponsors of the event are the Tulare County Farm Bureau and the International Agri-Center.

The deadline for registration is Monday, Feb. 4. Register online or by calling (916) 561-5504.

California Farm Bureau