USDA expands trade, works to eliminate barriers
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack highlighted how the U.S. Department of Agriculture resolved dozens of 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. The work is highlighted on Performance.gov, a resource for demonstrating how the Obama administration is improving performance and accountability for the American people and businesses.
"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. These efforts have resulted in the most successful period in the history for American agriculture and a boon for America's rural economies and agriculture-related businesses."
Over the past year, USDA has aggressively worked to eliminate barriers, open new markets, secure the release of U.S. shipments detained at foreign ports, and ensure 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.
Currently, the American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide, while 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 President Obama's goal under 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. USDA recently announced that the government of Japan--the fourth largest agricultural export market for the United States--agreed to expand access for U.S. beef. Under these new terms, which enter into effect on Feb. 1, Japan will now permit the import of beef from cattle less than 30 months of age, compared to the previous limit of 20 months, among other steps. It is estimated that these important changes will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in exports of U.S. beef to Japan in the coming years. This agreement also goes a long way toward normalizing trade with Japan by addressing long-standing restrictions that Japan introduced in response to bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
As American businesses look to reach the 95 percent 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.
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.
There are approximately 170 Foreign Service officers in USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, 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.
U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing its best period in history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers and agribusinesses. Today, net farm income is at record levels while debt has been cut in half since the 1980s. Overall, American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in the United States and provides American consumers with 83 percent of the food we consume, while maintaining affordability and choice. Strong agricultural exports contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs, boost economic growth and support President Obama's National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.