USDA to revitalise rural America and increase ag exports

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed USDA's work to strengthen the American agriculture economy and revitalise rural communities in the keynote speech at the 2010 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, California.

Vilsack focused on the USDA's efforts to increase exports of agricultural products to help American farmers, ranchers, and workers.

"USDA's continued work to expand trade opportunities for America's hard-working farmers and ranchers will play an important role in our effort to rebuild rural communities across the country," said Vilsack at the 2010 Commodity Classic event. "Increased trade will not only create important income opportunities for producers, but also the off-farm jobs that are so critical for revitalising rural America."

In the State of the Union address, the President announced a National Export Initiative to coordinate federal efforts to help rebuild the economy by increasing export opportunities. The new roadmap announced will help achieve the President's goal of doubling all US exports in the next 5 years.

While the USDA has traditionally looked at agricultural trading partners by geographic region, under the new trade strategy outlined by Vilsack, the USDA looks at countries based on their position on an agricultural market continuum, which enables tailored strategies to increase exports to each individual market. The continuum goes from fragile markets/food security states, to potential growth markets, to restricted access markets, to rapid growth markets, to developed consumer markets. The new strategy will improve collaboration among USDA agencies and guide priorities for international staffing, foreign assistance, and agricultural research.

For example, in potential growth markets, USDA programs will now emphasise building the institutional and human capacity needed to support increased trade, while in restricted access markets, USDA efforts are designed to remove trade barriers. In rapid growth markets, USDA will now emphasise using a full range of programs to build trade capacity, remove trade barriers and develop new markets for US products.

The annual value of US agricultural exports is rapidly increasing. Ten years ago the annual value was less than $50 bln and this year, even with the sharp global economic downturn, USDA estimates agricultural exports to reach $100 bln, the second highest level ever. USDA will continue to push hard for an open rules-based international trading system that will benefit both consumers and suppliers of agricultural products around the world.

USDA launched a new website and social media tools at www.usda.gov, which are designed to enhance discussions and facilitate innovation for challenges facing rural America. For more information about FAS's market development programs, click here.

Natalie Berkhout

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