Agricultural exports are continuing to build on their record total of last year as shipments of U.S. farm products to foreign customers are surging again in 2012.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on June 12 met with business and community leaders in Des Moines to discuss how continuing demand for American food and ag products abroad has led to the three best consecutive years for U.S. farm exports in history.
"People around the world continue to demand U.S. food and agricultural products, boosting American businesses and supporting our rural communities," says Vilsack. "USDA is currently forecasting that 2012 farm exports will reach the second highest level on record, after 2011, making the past three years the strongest for ag exports in our nation's history."
Iowa ag exports are up 15% so far in 2012 compared to 2011
Vilsack says Iowa's farm exports so far in 2012 are up 15% over last year's record total of more than $7 billion. Ag exports are helping to support tens of thousands of both on farm and off-farm jobs within the state. Overall, U.S. farm exports this year are forecast to post their second-highest total on record at $134.5 billion, a slight drop from $137.4 billion in fiscal year 2011.
"U.S. agriculture now accounts for 1 in 12 American jobs, provides American consumers with 83% of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most other countries, sustains a year-over-year trade surplus, supports record incomes for farm families in rural parts of our country, and is helping to support local and regional food systems as well as renewable energy markets," notes Vilsack.
The Obama administration vowed in 2010 to double U.S. exports in five years, and Vilsack says the White House is on track to meet that goal. He says he expects new trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and the European Union to deliver even greater returns for U.S. businesses and support for the U.S. economy and rural America.
New trade agreements expected to keep U.S. exports growing
"To ensure these successes continue, USDA has aggressively worked to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade," says Vilsack. "Less restrictions abroad, stronger trade deals for U.S. agriculture, and greater export assistance for U.S. businesses supports more than 1 million American jobs in industries from packing and shipping to food processing, to transportation. This is an American-made success story worth sharing with friends, family and neighbors."
At the June 12 meeting in Des Moines, speaking to business leaders in Iowa, one of the nation's most productive agricultural economies, Vilsack pointed to the state's low unemployment rate of 5.1% as proof of agriculture's success story. Last year Iowa exported a record $7 billion in ag products, which supported nearly 60,000 jobs on and off farm. Thus far in 2012, the state's farm exports show a 15% gain over last year's record total.
Export initiative has opened new markets for U.S. ag products
Vilsack also highlights a report released last week by the White House Rural Council and USDA, which notes how the administration's export initiatives have opened up new markets for U.S. ag products and services and contributed to the historic level of ag exports. Other highlights from the report include:
* Innovation: Innovation in U.S. agriculture has kept America's farms among the most productive in the world. U.S. farm sector income reached a nominal record of $98.1 billion in 2011. Adjusting for general inflation, real farm income in 2011 recorded its third highest level in the last 50 years.
* Clean energy: The administration continues to pursue policies that promote domestic energy alternatives like biofuels, bioenergy and wind power to provide new opportunities for farmers. Pursuit of an all-of-the-above clean energy and energy efficiency strategy saved Americans a projected 6.5 billion kWh or enough energy to power over 590,000 homes for a year. The amount of installed wind energy generation in the U.S. has nearly doubled over the past three years from about 25,000 MW in 2008 to 47,000 MW in 2011.
* New industries: USDA and the administration continue to support new industry diversification in the ag economy. The retail value of the organic industry in the U.S. grew to $31.4 billion in 2011, up from $21.1 billion in 2008. The number of operations certified organic grew by 1,109 or more than 6%--between 2009 and 2011.
* Community investment: The rural economy has been strengthened by investments in over 6,250 new community facilities. Additionally, over the last three years, a total of 12,000 USDA grants and loans have been issued to assist over 50,000 rural small businesses.