Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of traveling to Kansas City to address our nation’s farm broadcasters at the 68th Annual National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) meeting to answer questions about key issues affecting our agricultural community. Since I usually only talk to the broadcasters over the phone, I enjoy coming to NAFB each year to meet with them face-to-face. This year was particularly special because I was able to share good news regarding the state of our agricultural economy, farm exports as well as information about recent USDA streamlining initiatives that will allow us better assist our nation’s producers.
I was proud to announce that we set a record of $137.4 billion in agricultural exports this past fiscal year—exceeding past highs by over $22.5 billion—to support more than 115 million American jobs. We were able to set a trade surplus record of $42 billion, which is a testimony to the hard work of our nation’s producers as the backbone of the American economy.
While our agricultural exports are a bright spot, I believe our economic future will be brighter with the recent free trade agreements President Obama signed with South Korea, Columbia and Panama, which will add $2.3 billion to our export total and support 20,000 American jobs. And this week I will work to increase our global agricultural presence as the first sitting U.S. Agriculture Secretary to visit Vietnam and China.
At NAFB, I spoke about new efforts we’re making to retool our processes that will reduce decision-making time and better assist farmers, ranchers and producers. One example of the improvements we’d like to make is to Secretarial Disaster Designations. By reducing the number of required steps from six to two and the overall amount of time from months to weeks, farmers and ranchers who are impacted by natural disasters can get the help they need quicker.
I am extremely proud that our farmers and ranchers have one of the best export totals in nearly 40 years, but as I stressed at NAFB, we must work to constantly improve our programs and their processes so that we adapt to the changing needs of agriculture. In the face of budget restrictions, I believe this will help us to become more efficient and ultimately ensure that our agricultural community thrives for years to come.
To listen to read the transcript or listen to the audio version of my address, click here.