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Trade Takes Center Stage at Agricultural Outlook Forum

Agricultural exports were at the forefront during yesterday’s National Export Initiative (NEI) session at USDA’s 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum. Earlier that day, USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber announced the latest agricultural export forecast for fiscal year 2011 (Oct. 1, 2010-Sept. 30, 2011), which set the stage for a lot of interest in NEI and a packed afternoon session. President Obama and USDA view exports as one of the key drivers of sustainable economic growth and job creation. That’s why, under NEI, President Obama set a goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

President Obama and Secretary Vilsack are keenly aware of the importance of agricultural exports to our nation’s farmers and ranchers, our rural communities and the economic health and well-being of our nation as a whole. This Administration sees farm exports as a critical element in its ongoing effort to stimulate growth, create jobs and establish the framework for a robust rural economy.

During the standing room only session, the three presenters focused on different areas where agriculture can help meet the Administration’s NEI goals. The presenters included Janet Nuzum, associate administrator for USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, Tom Suber, president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and Gary Blumenthal, president and CEO of World Perspectives, Inc.

During her presentation, Nuzum discussed the importance of agricultural exports, their impact on the U.S. economy, and touched on the latest export forecast, which anticipates U.S. agricultural exports will hit a record $135.5 billion in fiscal year 2011, eclipsing the previous record set in 2008 by more than $20 billion and surpassing 2010’s exports by 25 percent. Additionally, the agricultural trade surplus is expected to reach a record $47.5 billion, far surpassing the previous record of $36 billion set in 2008. The forecast also indicated sales are surging in China, Southeast Asia, North America and the Middle East. She also laid out the Obama Administration’s NEI strategy and lauded USDA’s efforts over the past year to embrace the charge to increase exports, indicating that exports are a “bright spot in today’s economy.”

In his presentation, Suber focused on confronting technical barriers to trade. He discussed the significance of the World Trade Organization Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement and how it is critical that scientific evidence remain at the forefront of our trade disputes. He further emphasized that U.S. government agencies need to continue to collaborate on combating these barriers so that U.S. agriculture can work together to achieve the goals of NEI.

Blumenthal started his presentation with the enthusiastic statement: “Trade is back!” He talked about industry’s part in ensuring export success and emphasized helpful U.S. government policies that help to keep growth steady. After discussing current trade barriers from an industry perspective, he ended with a statement of support for NEI: “This is the most export enthusiasm I’ve seen in years.”

To learn more about the National Export Initiative, visit www.export.gov.

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