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U.S. Sweet Potato Production Swells

Chances are that if you order a side of fries at a restaurant, you need to specify whether you’re asking for white potatoes or sweet potatoes. Food trends that support the consumption of more healthful, colorful and unique foods have helped to encourage sales of sweet potatoes in the form of fries, chips, ready-to-cook and heat-and-eat preparations, expanding consumption of the orange tuber well beyond the holiday table.

Domestic consumption of sweet potatoes has grown considerably since 2000 with annual per capita availability (a proxy for consumption) rising from 4.2 pounds to reach a record-high 7.5 pounds in 2015. The marked rise in domestic demand has been encouraged by promotion of the health benefits of sweet potatoes – rich in vitamins A and C, high in fiber. Expanded demand has also been supported by the increasing variety of sweet potato products available in restaurants and for home preparation.

Discovering New Opportunities in Thailand - from Grains and Greens to Seafood

In mid-August, I traveled to Southeast Asia and witnessed firsthand the great strides being made to help increase food security and trade. I also came to appreciate the immense potential for future trade opportunities in the area. I returned with a reaffirmed sense of urgency to continue building upon recent gains in trade with Thailand.

Thailand purchased a record $1.7 billion in food and agricultural products last year from the United States, making it our 13th largest export market. Overall, U.S. agricultural exports to Thailand have grown by more than 150 percent over the past decade. Throughout my visit, growing demand for both U.S. bulk commodities and consumer products was very clear.

Showcasing New Opportunities in the Growing Philippines Food and Beverage Market

As the largest U.S. food and beverage export market in Southeast Asia and one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, the Philippines is attracting top food franchises. To showcase these new market opportunities, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and U.S. Commercial Service offices in Manila organized a first-ever cooperative marketing event for the country.

Supported by the Philippine Franchise Association and the Hotel and Restaurant Purchasing Managers Association of the Philippines, the event brought together more than 15 importers and 180 key decision makers of U.S. and Philippine-grown food franchises. Not only did the event showcase the availability, quality and uses of U.S. fine foods and beverages, it also linked importers with food franchises and helped them identify market access issues, trends and new trade opportunities.

USDA is a Boon to Business in Boonville, NY; Higher Exports Thanks, in part, to Rural Development Program

Focusing on international markets, renewable energy and a community’s inherent assets, rural businesses find dynamic paths to prosperity.  To see this in action, I headed to Boonville, New York.

Mark Bourgeois was born and raised in Boonville and today is President of CJ Logging Equipment and 3B Timber.  A stable employer in the region, 3B Timer processes softwood trees on-site into utility poles. 3B Timber utilized Rural Development’s Business & Industry (B&I) loan guarantee to expand their operations.  As Mark explained, his company now exports 80% of its poles to Canada, expanding international trade and supporting job creation in the region and state.

FAS Tariff Tracker Tool Now Includes TPP Data

The United States has free trade agreements (FTAs) with 20 countries around the world and those agreements have expanded export opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural producers. The pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, between the United States and 11 other nations, will provide even greater opportunities for exporters by reducing or eliminating tariffs on a host of food and farm products.

How can exporters learn more about those tariff reductions and the opportunities they create? Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s online Agricultural Tariff Tracker.  FAS initially developed the tracker in response to requests from those in the agricultural export community who wanted to obtain more detailed information about export opportunities resulting from FTAs. The tracker has already proven to be a valuable tool, but it just got even better – because now it includes TPP data.

U.S. Soybeans Help Feed the World

It takes more than just a bountiful harvest to succeed in today’s agricultural marketplace.  Many farmers find strength in numbers by pooling resources and expertise to grow and sustain their businesses in both the U.S. and international markets. For soybean farmers, the United Soybean Board (USB) works to maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets and uses for soybeans and soybean products.

Working through the U.S. Soybean Export Council, the USB annually conducts about 140 projects in international markets to promote U.S. soy products.  Comprising 70 soybean farmers, the USB facilitates trade servicing and technical support programs with importers, processors, livestock producers, and aquaculture operations.  Another important component of the soybean marketing effort is to invite international buyers, processors, and other users of U.S. soy products to the United States to understand and see firsthand the U.S. soybean production, processing, distribution and transportation systems.

Exports: Getting Into the Game

Whether you are new to exporting or your company has been in the business for years, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and its partners can help you build markets for your products around the globe. FAS offers a variety of services and programs that help U.S. agricultural exporters succeed in the global marketplace. From facilitating relationships with potential foreign buyers, to providing technical and financial assistance, FAS resources and expertise link U.S. agriculture to a world of opportunities.

For those new to exporting, a great place to start is with the State Regional Trade Group (SRTG) that covers your area. FAS supports four of these nonprofit organizations, which in turn assist U.S. food and agricultural businesses with the entire exporting process. Your SRTG can help you learn the fundamentals of exporting, identify overseas opportunities and market your products through trade shows and trade missions. With FAS support, SRTGs also help fund international marketing campaigns and promote U.S. farm and food products overseas. FAS and SRTGs work closely together with the ultimate goal of helping U.S. food and agricultural interests build a global business. Here’s more information about the STRGs.

Supporting U.S. Egg Exports - All in a Day's Work for a USDA Egg Grader

I’ve had many jobs in my life, but none as challenging or rewarding as my career as a shell egg grader.  With a cumulative 22 years grading eggs in Ohio, I’ve witnessed first-hand the evolution of an industry.  I have also watched my agency – USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – adapt right alongside the industry, maintaining valuable, unbiased grading and certification services that support marketing opportunities for American agriculture in a global marketplace.

Last year, shell egg graders with the AMS Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program’s Quality Assessment Division (QAD) assisted the U.S. egg industry in exporting over 99.5 million dozen shell eggs to customers as far away as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and as near as Canada, Mexico, Central America, and Puerto Rico.

Trade Agreements Key to Oregon Winemaker's Success

Exports are vital to the growth of U.S. agriculture. Since 2000, around 20 percent of annual agricultural production in the United States has been exported. Still, it’s difficult to conceptualize the real impact of free trade agreements until you talk to the people who have directly benefitted from them. In April, I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of winegrowers from Oregon – among them Tom Gerrie, president of Cristom Vineyards in Salem, who was kind enough to share with me his personal experience in exporting.

Cristom Vineyards is a family-run craft winery producing around 15,000 cases of wine per year. Founded in 1992 by Gerrie’s father, Paul, the company decided that in order to build global brand recognition of Oregon’s fine wines, it would need to target high-end restaurants both in the United States and abroad. In 1994, it shipped its first cases to New York, Chicago, London and Tokyo. Since then, Cristom Vineyards has expanded its exports to 48 states and 18 countries, including South Korea. More than 15 percent of Cristom’s total sales now come from exports.

Helping Reduce Risk and Facilitate Trade of Fruits and Vegetables

Now that it’s June, many of us are enjoying a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables that will be available throughout the summer.  During the rest of the year, some of these same fresh fruits and vegetables are available to American consumers thanks to trade agreements with Canada and Mexico.

In the last five years, the value and volume of fresh fruits and vegetables from Canada and Mexico to the United States has grown.  In 2015, the U.S. imported more than 2.8 billion pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables from Canada, valued at $1.4 billion.  From Mexico, the U.S. imported 17.4 billion pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for $9.1 billion.  U.S. fruit and vegetable growers also have benefited.  In 2015, the U.S. exported nearly 7.1 billion pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to Canada and Mexico, worth $4.2 billion.