Earlier this year, the U.S. government kicked off the nationwide National Export Initiative “New Markets, New Jobs” tour designed to help connect small businesses with the resources they need to sell their products globally.
The most recent stop on the tour took place in Milwaukee on August 3. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted the event, which was collaboration between USDA, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the U.S, Department of Commerce (DOC), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Export-Import Bank (EXIM).
Vilsack was in Wisconsin to focus on the state’s success story, as farm exports grew 36 percent over 2009 figures, delivering a record $2.4 billion in sales. Only Texas and Tennessee farm exports grew at a better rate. Wisconsin’s agriculture industry supports nearly 350,000 jobs in the state, or 1 in 10 jobs overall.
In Milwaukee and other cities on the “New Markets, New Jobs” tour, small businesses learn about a variety of export assistance programs available to them. One such program is FAS’s Market Access Program (MAP). Through MAP, FAS helps agribusinesses with promotional efforts, technical assistance, market research and more. In 2010 alone, more than 625 new small businesses joined the thousands of companies already benefiting from MAP.
Last year, WildRoots, a snack food company that is headquartered in Oklahoma and has productions facilities in Illinois and Nebraska, exported nearly $6.5 million worth of their healthy treats to Canada. While $6.5 million in exports may be a small feat for a major American food corporation, for a small agribusiness like WildRoots – who as of 2008 hadn’t begun exporting their products – achieving such a sale and gaining international customers is invaluable to the future of their business.
Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) like WildRoots are vital to achieving President Obama’s NEI goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014. As part of this initiative, the President is committed to helping U.S. farmers and small businesses expand their access to international markets.
USDA and the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), which has been the department’s lead agency for accessing overseas markets for more than 50 years, have taken the President’s NEI challenge to heart.
WildRoots used MAP for support with their marketing efforts in Canada. According to one of the company’s founders, without MAP “we simply would never have been able to compete with Canadian producers. It has moved our business to a new level.”
MAP funding can also be used to help SMEs offset the cost of participating in USDA-endorsed international trade shows, which is another significant way FAS has helped SMEs boost international sales. In 2010 alone, USDA supported U.S. pavilions at 27 international food shows in 19 countries. Nearly 1,000 exhibitors – mostly SMEs – reported $179 million in on-site sales and more than $1 billion in 12-month sales, all resulting from their participation in these shows.
Ultimately, by helping increase the agricultural exports among American SMEs, FAS is helping the United States stay on the road to economic recovery. Even in this trying time in American economic history, agricultural exports continue to thrive. By the end of fiscal year 2011, the United States is forecast to reach a record-breaking $137 billion in agricultural export sales. In calendar year 2010, the first full year under NEI, U.S. agricultural exports reached $116 billion – an 18 percent increase over the previous year.
For $1 billion in agricultural exports supports 8,400 American jobs and generates $1.31 billion in economic activity. This means that increased exports for our nation’s agricultural small businesses is good for news for all Americans.