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Category: Trade

Keeping U.S. Meat Competitive on the World Stage

Craig Morris at a UNECE meeting

Being an integral part of this international effort ensures that the American meat industry is represented and remains competitive in markets all over the world. Pictured here is Craig Morris at a UNECE meeting.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has the vital mission of administering programs that help market American agricultural products competitively in the global marketplace.  One of the ways AMS meets this mission is through the development of our own globally recognized meat standards, developed by the program I oversee, the AMS Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program.  However, separately, AMS works to achieve our mission through our participation and leadership in international standards setting organizations such as the UNECE.

For many years, I have represented the U.S. as the Vice-Chairperson of the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Specialized Section on Standardization of Meat.  UNECE is one of the many sections of the United Nations (UN), and facilitates international trade by developing agricultural quality standards. Read more »

‘Tis the Season to Talk Turkey

A turkey with vegetables

Thanksgiving is all about whole turkeys, which were produced and processed earlier in the year, outside of the HPAI outbreak. This means whole turkeys will be readily available and prices will largely be unchanged from last year. Photo courtesy Dan Tentler.

The Thanksgiving season is upon us, time for family homecomings, parades, and football games. More importantly, time for the annual turkey feast. As the marketing season hits full stride, the question on everyone’s lips this year is…will there be a shortage of turkeys? The simple answer is: no.

To fully answer the question though, we have to go back to late March when commercial turkey flocks in the Upper Midwestern production region were overtaken by rapid outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). HPAI, while harmless to humans, is devastating to turkeys and within a few short weeks over 7.5 million commercial turkeys succumbed to the disease.  While the total loss represented just over three percent of the total number of birds raised in the U.S. in 2014, the short time period during which losses occurred left the industry scrambling to cover their business needs. Read more »

USDA Makes First Visit to Cuba Since 1961

“Today I had the opportunity to meet with Cuban fruit and vegetable farmers in the Antero Regalado Agricultural Cooperative in Güira de Melena, and hog and sheep producers in the Niceto Pérez Livestock Cooperative. They talked openly about the membership structure of their cooperatives, and they share many of the same concerns that face American farmers, such as climate change and pests, in addition to their own unique challenges with irrigation and equipment. I look forward to seeing more Americans have the opportunity for conversations and exchanging of ideas with their Cuban counterparts like I have had over the past few days. Throughout history, agriculture has served as a bridge to foster cooperation, and I have no doubt that agriculture will continue to play that powerful role as we expand our relationship with the Cuban people in the coming years.” – Secretary Vilsack

Last week, I was part of the first USDA team to visit Cuba since U.S. Government offices were closed there in 1961, and I was the third U.S. Cabinet official to visit the island since President Obama announced his intent to resume relations with Cuba late last year. Food and agricultural goods are the dominant U.S. exports to Cuba, and it is my firm belief—and one that appears to be shared by the Cuban people and government officials—that agriculture can serve as a bridge to foster cooperation, understanding and the exchange of ideas. Read more »

Collaboration and Innovation are Keys to Organic Success

USDA Certified Organic Operations graphic

With 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and nearly 28,000 certified organic operations from more than 120 countries around the globe, organic agriculture has seen enormous growth and success over the last two years.

For years, the organic industry has experienced enormous growth, defying expectations and creating exciting opportunities for producers and entrepreneurs around the world. 2014 was another record year for the organic community, with 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and nearly 28,000 certified organic operations from more than 120 countries around the globe.

The retail market for organic products is now valued at more than $39 billion in the U.S. and over $75 billion worldwide. With its rapidly growing market and high consumer interest, USDA is focused on helping this area of agriculture achieve even greater success. In May 2013, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued guidance that identified organic priorities for the Department, including training and outreach, growing the organic sector, reducing paperwork, improving research, and gathering data. Read more »

U.S.-Cuba Trade Relationship: Past, Present, and Possible Future

Field of corn growing on a farm in Cuba

Field of corn growing on a farm in Cuba. A recent report by the Economic Research Service points to future prospects for agricultural trade between the United States and Cuba. U.S. grain and feed exports to Cuba averaged 344,000 MT per year during 2012-14. Photo credit: USDA

Since December 2014, when the United States and Cuba announced the intention to restore diplomatic ties for the first time in more than half a century, the U.S. has taken steps to ease restrictions on trade, remittances, and travel to Cuba. The actions have generated a wave of enthusiasm about the economic opportunities that a more normal relationship between the two countries could create.

A recent report by the Economic Research Service (ERS) considers potential impacts of more normal commercial ties between the two countries on bilateral agricultural trade. Read more »

USDA Grain Inspectors Work to Uphold America’s Reputation for Quality, Support New Markets

Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture Elvis Cordova touring the newly renovated control room at the Louis Dreyfus elevator at the port of Houston

Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture Elvis Cordova tours the newly renovated control room at the Louis Dreyfus elevator at the port of Houston. (USDA Photo)

As America’s leadership role in the global economy increases, shipments of American grain, oil seeds, and related agricultural products could continue expanding into promising markets in some of the world’s most robust economies. Facilitating the marketing of U.S. grain exports by thorough inspection and weight certification in accordance with Federal law is the job of the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) through its Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS).

A team of dedicated professionals located around the country ensures that America remains competitive in the world agricultural market by upholding the quality of U.S. grain as well as the integrity of U.S. grading standards. Working shifts around the clock in export elevators loading ocean vessels and in interior locations loading shipping containers along the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, on coastal and other locations, FGIS personnel along with delegated states and designated agencies inspect and weigh grain arriving daily by truck, rail, and barge for domestic markets and export by cargo ships. Once loading is complete, FGIS inspectors provide an official certificate backed by the reputation and authority of the U.S. Government. Read more »