Governor McAuliffe announces 2015 Virginia agricultural, forestry exports figures

virginiaGovernor Terry McAuliffe announced Monday that Virginia has strengthened its position as the second largest exporter of agricultural goods on the East Coast, and narrowed the gap between the Commonwealth and first place Georgia. Agricultural exports, which also include Virginia forestry products, reached $3.19 billion in 2015, a 4.7 percent decrease from last year’s all-time high of $3.35 billion.  Exports from Virginia and across the country were impacted negatively by depressed commodity prices, decreased shipments to certain regions due to prohibitive shipping costs, new trade bans, and various geo-political challenges. The announcement came during the Governor’s keynote remarks at the eighth annual Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade held in Richmond.  The conference runs through Tuesday at the Hilton Downtown Richmond.

Speaking at the annual conference, Governor McAuliffe stated, “Today’s announcement is a testament to the combined work of so many in the private and public sectors and I applaud those efforts.  In a tough year where staying above the $3 billion figure was challenging, Virginia solidified its status as the second largest East Coast agricultural exporter and we moved closer to Georgia. Despite the global headwinds we faced this year, we will continue building the infrastructure to increase exports, and the new resources for that effort that I placed in my proposed budget and the General Assembly approved will help the cause.  My administration will do everything we can to expand the international marketplace for Virginia’s agricultural products in our efforts to build a new Virginia economy and become the East Coast capital for these exports.”

The Commonwealth previously reached a record level of agricultural exports in 2014, when just over $3.35 billion in products were shipped from Virginia ports into the global marketplace.  That was the fourth consecutive year that Virginia set new record levels for agricultural exports.  Despite the value decline in 2015, Virginia fared much better than most of the country’s leading export states, including its closest neighbors on the East Coast.  For example, exports from Georgia saw a 15 percent decrease in value in 2015.  In addition, the value of North Carolina’s exports dropped by more than 13 percent.

“In spite of a challenging global marketplace, Virginia continues to be a leader in promoting agricultural exports, which have grown in value by 42 percent since 2010 when we launched a strategic initiative to increase shipments of these products,”said Todd Haymore, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.  “I’m confident in the future as we continue building a global trade marketing network with new funds being provided by the Governor and General Assembly to support and expand our efforts.  Virginia’s agricultural exports are competitive in the global marketplace because of the high-quality and diversity of products available, outstanding producers and agribusinesses, a global trade representative infrastructure, and our world-class port system.”

“Agriculture and forestry support hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity in Virginia each year,” Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Virginia) said. “Opening up additional economic opportunities to allow Virginia farmers, workers, and agribusiness to increase exports and create more high-paying jobs remains a top priority of mine. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor McAuliffe, Secretary Haymore, and Virginia local government and business leaders to strengthen an industry that helps define the economy of the Commonwealth.”

The top three export markets for Virginia in 2015 were China, Canada, and Switzerland, all filling the same spots they have held since 2013.  China imported more than $694 million in agricultural purchases, while Canada totaled just over $291 million and Switzerland took in approximately $204 million in 2015.  The value of exports to China and Canada increased by 1.4 and 4.3 percent, respectively, over 2014 levels, while those to Switzerland increased by 17 percent.  Virginia has trade representatives in China and Canada.

The remainder of Virginia’s top ten export markets, along with the values shipped rounded to the nearest million dollars, include:  Mexico, $179 million; Japan, $175 million; United Kingdom, $134 million; Morocco, $103 million; Republic of Korea, $94 million; Taiwan, $90 million; and Indonesia, $70 million.  All countries saw increases in value versus 2014, except Indonesia, which declined by 26 percent.  Several countries in the top ten saw double or triple digit increases including Switzerland, Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Taiwan. Virginia has trade representation covering Mexico, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

The top agricultural and forestry product exports from Virginia in 2015 include: soybeans; pork; lumber and logs; soybean meal; leaf tobacco; processed foods and beverages, including wine, craft beer, and distilled spirits; wood pellets and chips; poultry; soybean oil; wheat; animal feed; corn; raw peanuts; seafood and other marine products; and cotton.

Favorable growing conditions and record yields in key production countries contributed to lower crop prices in 2015.  For example, per bushel prices of soybeans, Virginia’s largest export commodity, dropped almost 13 percent from 2014 to 2015 according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Overall, the value of U.S. field crops fell to $135.7 billion in 2015 from $149.8 billion in 2014, or a 10.4 percent drop.  These figures also are below those released by USDA in 2013 ($166.7 billion) and 2012 ($184.4 billion).

A portion of Governor McAuliffe’s strategic plan for building a new Virginia economy includes helping existing agribusinesses expand operations, recruiting new agribusinesses to Virginia, expanding international markets for Virginia products, and making strategic investments in rural infrastructure, including utilizing the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which support job growth in these areas.  According to a 2013 economic impact study conducted by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, agriculture and forestry are two of Virginia’s largest private industries with a combined economic impact of $70 billion annually.

The Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade is co-hosted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia Port Authority, Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  In addition to Governor McAuliffe and Secretary Haymore, the conference features presentations from United States Senator Mark R. Warner; Ambassador Darci Vetter, Chief Agricultural Negotiator of the United States Trade Representative (USTR); John Reinhart, CEO and Executive Director of the Port of Virginia; Dr. John Clifford, Chief Veterinary Officer of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Jim Sumner, President of the U.S.A. Poultry and Egg Export Council; Ambassador Richard Crowder, former Chief Agricultural Negotiator of USTR; and several additional industry executives from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Virginia Tech, Wells Fargo, Tyson Foods, and The Scoular Company, among others.

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