CASPER — Wyoming cattlemen urged the state's congressional delegation to vote against a free trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic, despite their national organization's support for the measure.
The Wyoming Stock Growers Association said Wednesday it would not lobby for CAFTA-DR — a free trade pact with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said there were some good things about the agreement, but that his group couldn't support it until it included "country of origin" labeling for beef.
"I think we recognize that there are some things in there that will remove some high tariffs and open some markets," Magagna said. "We just decided that before we're even willing to consider these things, there has to be a country-of-origin program implemented."
CAFTA-DR would eliminate most trade barriers between the United States and the other treaty nations. The U.S. signed the agreement last year, but it still needs approval from both houses of Congress.
Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., said he was "quite concerned" about the agreement and had several questions he planned to ask during next week's Finance Committee hearings.
A spokesman for Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said he, too, had not decided how he would vote. Enzi has been one of the chief Senate backers of country-of-origin labeling.
Despite the position of the Wyoming cattlemen, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association has supported the pact while advocating for voluntary country-of-origin labeling.
Michelle Reinke, associate director of trade policy for the national group, said tariffs as high as 40 percent had made some countries covered by the agreement virtually off limits to U.S. producers in the past. She called the pact "a win-win for cattlemen."
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