the keynote address today to an audience of more than 4,500 farmers
and commodity group representatives during the General Session of the
16th Annual Commodity Classic in Tampa, Fla. In his remarks, the
Secretary commended American farmers, ranchers and producers for
helping to lead the United States' economic recovery by shattering
agricultural trade records, creating jobs at home and ensuring
affordable food for U.S. families.
"We are all fortunate to be living through one of the most productive
eras in history for U.S. agriculture," said Vilsack. "American farmers
and ranchers are seeing record sales of farm goods abroad and looking
forward to some of the best net incomes in decades. U.S. agricultural
exports for fiscal 2011 are on course to shatter previous records and
enjoy a record $47.5 billion trade surplus. This record productivity
is creating employment across a variety of sectors, including
transportation and storage. Moreover, because American agriculture
produces 86 percent of the food we consume, our families spend less at
the grocery store compared to consumers in much of the rest of the
world. As producers of high-quality products and conscientious
stewards of our lands, American farmers and ranchers deserve our
In calendar year 2010, U.S. exports of corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum
and related products, including animal feed, garnered sales of $44.7
billion. Total exports for calendar year 2010 were $115.8 billion.
As part of his message to the audience, Vilsack also stressed the
importance of agriculture to the nation's economic resurgence and job
growth. U.S. agriculture and related industries account for one in 12
jobs nationwide. Exports of U.S. farm goods – which were recently
projected to smash previous records by $20 billion – create additional
jobs: Every $1 billion in farm exports supports roughly 8,000 jobs in
the United States. Farm exports alone will support more than 1 million
jobs in 2011.
The Secretary also thanked the farmer-heavy crowd for helping to meet
President Obama's challenge to double U.S. exports and create several
million new jobs by 2014. The Secretary challenged producer groups, as
well as USDA staff, to continue to reach out to small- and medium-
sized producers with guidance and assistance on breaking into export
markets. In 2010, the President laid out his challenge to all sectors
of the economy with his National Export Initiative (NEI), a program
intended to coordinate federal efforts to expand export opportunities.
Despite the recent export gains, Vilsack pointed out that only 1
percent of U.S. companies export, and yet 95 percent of the world's
consumers live outside the borders of the United States.
"We can do better to reach those consumers," Vilsack said.
The Secretary suggested that the trade agreements now before the U.S.
Congress would help to increase farm exports, support job creation,
and bolster the American economy. Currently, the Obama administration
is working to move forward on proposed U.S. trade agreements with
South Korea, then Panama and Colombia – nations with 100 million
consumers. USDA expects the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement to expand U.S.
agricultural exports to Korea by $1.9 billion, bringing about 15,000
new jobs to agriculture-related industries. Successful ratification of
all three trade agreements would bring billions of dollars to U.S.
agriculture, Vilsack said, thereby benefitting the American economy as