Leola, Pa., Oct. 17, 2012—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to Pennsylvania this week to highlight the Obama Administration's efforts to achieve and expand upon record agricultural exports since 2008. Under President Obama's leadership, exports of U.S. food and agricultural products will achieve the four best years in our nation's history thanks to greater market opportunities, stronger tools for exporters, and a more level playing field for American businesses abroad. Today in York, the Secretary visited Nuts About Granola, a small mother/daughter business that sells breakfast and snack items to regional farmers markets, online and to international buyers. Yesterday in Philadelphia, the Secretary met with producers and businesses who have worked with Food Export – Northeast, with funding support from USDA's Market Access Program (MAP), to develop strategies for growing their businesses through increased exports.
Agricultural exports from Northeast states have grown from $9.2 billion in 2008 to $11.6 billion in 2011, while U.S. exports over the same period have expanded by more than $20 billion, supporting more than 1 million good-paying American jobs in industries such as processing, packaging, transportation and sales.
"Since 2009, the President has signed into law important trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, keeping good-paying jobs here at home," said Vilsack. "At the same time, USDA has acted to remove hundreds of unfair barriers to trade for American companies and provide businesses with the resources they need to reach new markets. These efforts have resulted in the most successful period in the history of American agriculture and a boon for America's rural economies. Congress needs to help ensure that this success continues by passing a comprehensive, multi-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that provides greater certainty for farmers, ranchers and businesses."
While visiting with Pennsylvania businesses, Vilsack said comprehensive, multi-year farm legislation would provide certainty for businesses and ensure a strong safety net for producers, including disaster assistance for those who have been impacted by the 2012 drought. Expiration of program authority for the Milk Income Loss Contract on October 1, 2012 has led to tremendous uncertainty for Pennsylvania dairy producers and dairy farmers throughout the nation, said Vilsack.
USDA's chief export assistance programs also expired on Oct. 1, putting resources even further out of reach for small and medium-sized businesses hoping to sell their products to international buyers.
The expiration of the Market Access Program (MAP), a cost-share program for marketing and promoting U.S. products abroad, is especially tough for American small businesses. USDA's market development programs have a long history of helping farmers, ranchers, and businesses of all sizes build and maintain commercial markets for U.S. food and agricultural products around the world. For every dollar that government and industry invest in market development programs and activities, independent research has found agricultural exports increase by $35.
For example, Bassett's Ice Cream, a Philadelphia-based business, saw ice cream sales to China grow from $50,000 in 2008 to $800,000 in 2010, with projected sales of $2 million by the end of 2012, thanks in part to support from USDA market development programs. The company was able to add one full-time employee in 2010 and is sourcing more milk and other ingredients from the Northeast.
Today, only 1 percent of U.S. companies export, and yet 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the borders of the United States, creating significant opportunities for U.S. food and agriculture.
The latest export forecast sees U.S. farm exports at their second highest level ever in 2012, while the forecast for 2013 is a record $143.5 billion. Vilsack said new trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and the European Union will deliver even greater returns for Pennsylvania-based and other U.S. businesses.
The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, has aggressively worked to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade, helping to push agricultural exports to record levels in 2011 and beyond. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its best periods in history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers and agribusinesses. Today, net farm income is at record levels while debt has been cut in half since the 1980s. Overall, American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in the United States and provides American consumers with 83 percent of the food we consume, while maintaining affordability and choice. Strong agricultural exports contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs, boost economic growth and support President Obama's National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.
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