On Monday, I had the honor of hosting Indonesia’s Vice Minister of Agriculture Bayu Krisnamurthi at my 1,700-acre corn, soybean, and wheat farm in Smyrna, Delaware. This opportunity is a direct result of my visit last month to Jakarta where I led 18 U.S. companies on an Agribusiness Trade and Investment Mission. When Vice Minister Bayu told me he would be traveling to the United States this month, I invited him to visit my farm. He warmly accepted my invitation.
The United States and Indonesia are strong allies and trade between us continues to grow. In November 2010, President Obama and President Yudhoyono formally launched the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership. Through this partnership, both of our countries are looking to expand trade and investment and commercial relationships, creating tremendous possibilities for economic development and cooperation.
Last month’s Trade and Investment Mission helped further strengthen our mutually beneficial trade relationship. Over a three-day period, U.S. company representatives and more than 100 Indonesian buyers, producers, and investors held 225 one-on-one business meetings. As a result, significant sales are expected in the near future as nearly a dozen export deals were either made or are in process. Most importantly, nearly every U.S. company representative reported having established new business contacts that will pay off in the mid- to long-term.
In addition, the Vice Minister’s visit to my farm gave us the opportunity to get to know one another better and reinforce our countries’ strong bilateral relationship. I also think it was useful for the Vice Minister to see how U.S. farmers use new technologies, including biotechnology, to increase production, while using less petroleum-based inputs like fertilizers and pesticides. Indonesian farmers have already seen positive results for agricultural output and rural incomes from using this technology.
Recently, the Indonesian government formed a biosafety committee that approved two biotech corn products for food safety and import use. The committee is working toward implementing a transparent, science-based regulatory system for products of agricultural biotechnology consistent with international standards and obligations. I offered my support and the expertise of my USDA colleagues to the Vice Minister and his staff as we continue our collaborative efforts in the area of agricultural biotechnology.
Overall, I think Vice Minister Bayu’s visit to a typical farm in the northeastern United States went well. It’s not every day that my wife and I host a Vice Minister from anywhere, let alone Indonesia. But the opportunity to build a stronger relationship presented itself and I’m pleased the visit worked out.
Last week, U.S. farm exports reached an all-time high of $75 billion during the first half of fiscal year 2011. This puts us on track to reach the current USDA export forecast of $135.5 billion by the end of the year. U.S. exports to Indonesia, in particular, are up nearly 35 percent over the same period last year. Farm exports alone will support more than one million jobs in America this year. Strong U.S. farm exports will be a key contributor to building an economy that continues to grow, innovate and out-compete the rest of the world.