New funding to broaden state’s network for farm and forestry exports

virginia logoVirginia will invest $850,000 over the biennial budget to expand its international trade initiatives promoting Virginia’s agriculture and forestry products.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will use the new funds to open trade representative offices in Southeast Asia and the Middle East/Northern Africa region, as well as create a Richmond-based position to support the state’s global trade network. The investment also will promote VDACS-led reverse trade missions to Virginia and promotional events supporting the export of Virginia ag and forestry products.

“With 95 percent of world consumers living outside of the United States, our administration is committed to promoting Virginia’s agriculture and forestry products on the international stage and ensuring that we see more made-in-Virginia products exported in the global economy,” McAuliffe said.

In addition to having one employee based in Hong Kong, the VDACS Office of International Marketing has representative offices providing services to Virginia farms, agribusinesses and forestry products companies in Canada, Latin America, Europe, India and China. Those representatives are on contract with VDACS and provide specialized market development services such as identifying sales partners, assisting at trade shows, providing tariff and regulatory analysis and identifying potential investors.

Spencer Neale, vice president of commodity marketing for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said the new funding can only benefit the commonwealth’s farm and forest operators. “Foreign demand for our agricultural and forestry products represents growth markets for Virginia farmers and foresters, and the overall economic impacts are obviously significant,” he said.

“On the agriculture side, the United States exports over 20 percent of our production value, and this number has seen steady increases over the past 20 years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts 2016 farm and forest product exports to top $124 billion, and in 2014 our forestry exports were almost $10 billion.”

Agriculture and forestry exports from Virginia totaled $3.19 billion in 2015, the second-highest value ever. The state’s top export markets, along with the values shipped, are China, $694 million; Canada, $291 million; Switzerland, $204 million; Mexico, $179 million; and Japan, $175 million.

Top agriculture and forestry product exports in 2015 included soybeans, pork, lumber and logs, soybean meal and leaf tobacco.

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