Last week, I was honored to travel home to Delaware to address the importance of the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI). As a proud former agriculture secretary for this great state, I know well that for thousands of Delawareans, agriculture is not only a livelihood, but also a way of life.
Delaware boasts nearly 2,500 farms covering almost a half-million acres of land. In 2009 those farms generated more than $1 billion in cash receipts and exported $240 million in agricultural goods. Approximately half of the export value came from poultry, making Delaware the United States’ 12th-largest poultry exporter.
In Delaware and in agricultural communities across the country, we see the continued contributions farmers and ranchers make toward bettering the economy, especially when it comes to global trade. This week USDA released new trade numbers that indicate U.S. agricultural exports reached an all-time high of $75 billion in the first half of fiscal year 2011. These export dollars translate into opportunities for Americans. For every $1 billion in agricultural exports, 8,400 American jobs are supported and an extra $1.4 billion in economic activity is generated.
This year, we stand poised to expand access to international export markets for agribusinesses country-wide. An important next step is ratification of the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement (KORUS). The Delaware poultry industry stands to benefit tremendously under the KORUS agreement. Once the agreement is ratified, Korea’s tariffs on frozen poultry parts—currently as high as 27 percent—will be phased out.
The pending trade agreements with Colombia and Panama also provide good news for exporters. Upon full implementation, the Colombia agreement could boost U.S. farm exports by almost 45 percent—that means an additional $370 million in export sales per year. In Panama, U.S. exporters could gain an additional $46 million in annual sales on a variety of farm products including corn, a major export crop for Delaware.
In line with the goals of NEI, the Administration continues to work diligently toward the ratification of KORUS as well as the full implementation of the Panama and Colombia free trade agreements. Implementation of these agreements will greatly benefit communities in Delaware and across the country. To learn more about NEI, visit www.export.gov/nei.