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Category: Trade

Connecting Rural Businesses with International Customers

Logs from the U.S. being shipped overseas are unloaded near the Port of New Orleans in New Orleans, LA on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

Logs from the U.S. being shipped overseas are unloaded near the Port of New Orleans in New Orleans, LA on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

2013 was a record year for America agricultural exports, with $141 billion in sales and an additional $180 billion in related business activity. We expect even greater things in 2014, when international sales of U.S. farm and food products are expected to reach $149.5 billion. Taken as a whole, these numbers are impressive – but they impress me even more when I think about all the American companies who made this happen.

Many of these companies are based in rural communities, and they employ more than a million U.S. workers to produce products that are valued throughout the world. It’s amazing to think about those individuals, from small towns across America, who produce everything from cheese to pet food to distillers dried grains. It makes me proud of the work USDA is doing to connect these rural producers to international markets. Read more »

Celebrating 90-Plus Years of USDA’s International Activities

Asher Hobson in Rome, who six years later would become the first head of the Foreign Agricultural Service.

Asher Hobson in Rome, who six years later would become the first head of the Foreign Agricultural Service.

The modern Foreign Service is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, as is the American Foreign Service Association. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Foreign Service Act into law, combining the United States diplomatic and consular services to create the United States Foreign Service. By that time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had already been posting employees overseas for 42 years.

Thanks to President Coolidge’s curiosity, we possess a rare snapshot of USDA international activities in 1924. On December 22 of that year, Coolidge, in his characteristically laconic style, sent a one-line letter to Secretary of Agriculture Howard Gore: “I shall appreciate it if you will send me as soon as possible a list of the representatives the Department may have abroad, their posts and just what they are doing.”  Surviving copies of urgent correspondence in the National Archives in College Park testify to the flurry of activity that ensued over the next two weeks as a data call went out to all USDA field offices. Read more »

U.S. Companies Explore Trade Opportunities in China

Under Secretary Scuse speaks with Jiisan Soybean Crusher General Manager Wang Yumin in Dalian, China.

Under Secretary Scuse speaks with Jiisan Soybean Crusher General Manager Wang Yumin in Dalian, China.

Northeast China has been a difficult market for U.S. companies to crack in the past. The region is traditionally an area of farming and manufacturing, making it difficult to find a place for U.S. agricultural exports. But recent economic growth and development have sent the region’s agricultural imports soaring, steadily outpacing the rest of China, and American companies are taking notice. Last week, representatives from nine state departments of agriculture and 28 U.S. companies participated in a USDA trade mission to learn and explore the opportunities for trade in the region.

Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse led the agricultural trade mission to Dalian, Shenyang and Changchun to learn about China’s rapidly evolving market conditions and business environment. China is the largest market for U.S. food and farm products – U.S. agricultural exports to the country tripled over the last decade, now accounting for nearly 20 percent of all foreign sales of U.S. agricultural products. USDA’s trade mission to China during World Trade Month will open new doors and help farmers and ranchers capitalize on the tremendous export potential for American agricultural products. Read more »

Following the Rails: USDA Tracks Agricultural Exports Across the Border

Until recently, there was no readily-available public data showing the entry points of U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico, modes of transportation, or how product were used at their final destination.  Now, a USDA partnership with Texas A&M scientists provides insight into the movement of products from the U.S. to Mexico. Photo by Michael Matalis.

Until recently, there was no readily-available public data showing the entry points of U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico, modes of transportation, or how product were used at their final destination. Now, a USDA partnership with Texas A&M scientists provides insight into the movement of products from the U.S. to Mexico. Photo by Michael Matalis.

Driving down a rural road, admiring the expansive fields of corn and soybeans, I stopped at a rail crossing to wait for what seemed like an endless train of cars filled with grain.  My idle mind wondered, where are all those tons of grain headed, where was its final destination?  For anyone else, it may just be curiosity. But for me and those who work in my division within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), it’s our job to answer those questions.

We understand that for stakeholders within the agricultural industry—farmers, grain mill operators, shippers and exporters—the answers are critical.  Sound business decisions require knowledge about what is happening with the transportation of agricultural products, both in the domestic and international marketplace. Read more »

USDA Export Development Program Helps Boost U.S. Blueberry Exports

U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council member Deborah Payne at the Gulfood 2014 trade show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation.

U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council member Deborah Payne at the Gulfood 2014 trade show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation.

Spring is here and brings with it many fresh healthy foods, including blueberries. Known for their antioxidants, vitamins and fiber, blueberries are a healthy option that is becoming more popular around the world and the U.S. blueberry industry is taking advantage of this demand with the help of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Market Access Program (MAP).

Through MAP, FAS partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities. Read more »

Acting Local, Growing Global for Good Food

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center.  The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center. The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

For over a century, my hometown of Chicago has been a cultural, financial, and agricultural hub.  And as a hub, it has a long history of supporting innovation and opportunity.  From the first cattle drives came the great Chicago Stockyards that supplied meat to the nation.  From the early trading of the Chicago Butter and Egg Board came the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The city’s richly-woven tapestry of cultural diversity and the success of its food businesses prove Chicago’s value as an ideal business cultivator.

That is why it was so fitting that AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal and I were invited to present at the Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago on March 14. Hosted by Jim Slama of FamilyFarmed.org, the event is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America. Each year it brings together stakeholders including farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and food industry representatives. Read more »