Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Friday highlighted USDA actions to resolve export issues in 2012, freeing up an estimated $4 billion in U.S. agricultural and forestry exports and protecting roughly 30,000 American jobs in the process.
"As consumers around the world demand high-quality, American-grown products, USDA staff are monitoring more than 160 markets to ensure an open system of trade, free from unwarranted and unjustified barriers," said Vilsack. "Since 2009, USDA has acted to remove hundreds of unfair barriers to trade for American companies and is providing businesses with the resources they need to reach new markets."
Over the past year, USDA has eliminated barriers, opened new markets, secured the release of U.S. shipments detained at foreign ports, and ensured the safe movement of agricultural products in a manner consistent with science and international standards.
Overall, a highly-dedicated group of USDA Foreign Service officers, animal and plant health experts, and analysts monitor 162 markets around the world, ensuring a level playing field for U.S. businesses and products. USDA works in partnership with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and other federal offices and agencies.
Ag exports continue to generate jobs
Currently, U.S. agricultural exports support more than 1 million jobs in communities across the country. Fiscal years 2009 through 2012 generated more than $478 billion in agricultural exports, and 2013 agricultural exports remain on track to set new records. Overall, America's agricultural sector is playing a key role in helping to achieve the National Export Initiative of doubling exports by the end of 2014.
This success builds on USDA's efforts to break down barriers to trade and expand access for U.S. goods around the world. Earlier this week, USDA announced that the Government of Japan—the fourth largest agricultural export market for the United States—agreed to expand access for U.S. beef. New guidelines allow beef under 30 months of age to enter the country, up from 20 months of age previously.
As American businesses look to reach the 95% of consumers outside of U.S. borders, USDA is providing support and service. For example, in 2012, USDA has been able to help conduct more than 110 trade shows around the world to help more than 1,000 U.S. companies make more than $500 million in on-site sales. The majority of these were small and medium-sized businesses. While strong exports benefit farms and rural communities, agricultural trade is also a building block for a strong national economy.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service resolves trade issues
Along with their federal partners, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service works to protect the health and value of American agriculture and natural resources in the international environment. Last year, APHIS successfully negotiated and resolved 150 animal and plant health issues involving U.S. agricultural exports. Examples include:
-Spearheaded a 6-month pilot program with China's animal and plant health authority which established the resumption of log exports from Virginia and South Carolina, resulting in more than $1.5 million in U.S. hardwood log exports to China from those States.
-Worked with Mexican officials to spur U.S. table eggs exports to Mexico valued at $45 million per year.
-Secured Japanese market access for poultry and poultry products from New York, Ohio and South Dakota. In 2011, U.S. poultry exports to Japan totaled $88 million.
Supported the shipment of U.S. cattle to new markets in 2012 by engaging foreign counterparts in preparation for exports, and securing export inspection facilities. Turkish and Russian purchases alone during fiscal year 2012 were valued at roughly $300 million.
-Secured the release of 324 shipments of U.S. agricultural products detained at foreign ports, valued at more than $41 million.
Foreign Ag Service negotiates trade improvements
There are approximately 170 Foreign Service officers in USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), staffing 98 offices covering 162 countries. U.S. farmers, ranchers, trade associations and private companies depend on FAS staff to guide them through export of their products. FAS provides reports on hot market prospects and offers expertise when trade barriers arise. Over the past year, FAS has helped to knock down hundreds of barriers to trade. Examples include:
-Negotiated the release of detained shipments in dozens of countries, valued at well over $60 million.
-Began implementing trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, ensuring duty free access for a wide variety of U.S. food and farm products.
-Negotiated expanded access for U.S. beef to the United Arab Emirates and El Salvador.
-Engaged with China on a memorandum of understanding on soybean trade that prevented disruptions to over $12 billion of U.S. exports. Maintained market access for U.S. dairy—valued at over $432 million in 2012—by coordinating a draft dairy export certificate with the government of China.
-Spearheaded negotiations with Indonesia to exempt countries with food safety recognition, including the United States, from new restrictions on a variety of imported fruit and vegetables.
-Helped to negotiate the organic equivalence arrangement with the European Union.
-Engaged with India on a measure likely to have halted U.S. apple and pear exports valued at nearly $110 million annually.
-Expanded market access for U.S. potatoes in Asia, and positioned U.S exporters to take advantage of the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement that permits duty-free entry of up to 3,000 metric tons of U.S. potatoes each year.
-Worked with Mexico to remove a 16 % tax on dehydrated U.S. cranberries that had been erroneously applied for two months.