Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke today at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif., about the importance of sustaining the record-breaking productivity of America's farmers and ranchers with increased export opportunities and smart trade deals, including the Korean Trade Agreement, which needs congressional ratification. Vilsack underscored how President Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI), a program intended to coordinate federal efforts to double U.S. exports by 2014 and create several million new jobs, is providing support to businesses big and small to reach more of the world's consumers -- 95 percent of whom live outside the borders of the United States. Strong trade will be a key contributor to building an economy that continues to grow, innovate and out-compete the rest of the world.
"The Obama Administration is focused on stimulating growth, creating jobs, and setting in place a framework for a robust future for the American economy," said Vilsack. "U.S. farmers and ranchers are seeing record sales of farm goods abroad, which means the agricultural economy is growing and jobs are being created. We must continue growing the economy, and Congress must focus on passing smart trade deals like the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement that will increase exports and support job creation."
Vilsack was joined in Long Beach today by Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and California agriculture leaders. Economic output is estimated to grow more under U.S.-Korea agreement than from the United States' last nine trade agreements combined. That type of growth would bring additional jobs to seaports like Los Angeles and Long Beach, the first- and second- busiest seaports in the country. Annually, more than $140 billion of trade moves through the Port of Long Beach. Additionally, the Port supports more than 30,000 jobs in Long Beach, 316,000 jobs throughout Southern California and 1.4 million jobs throughout the United States, according to Port officials.
Vilsack discussed how the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, which needs congressional ratification, will add tens of thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy, especially in major agriculture-producing states like California. The U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement would eliminate tariffs on a variety of American goods -- including agricultural products like grains, fruits and vegetables, and beef -- while adding tens of thousands of jobs to our economy.
Exports of U.S. farm goods in fiscal year 2011 (Oct. 1, 2010 -- Sept. 30, 2011) are projected to surpass previous records by $20 billion. The agricultural trade balance -- a balance of U.S. exports versus foreign imports -- is also projected to set a record surplus of $47.5 billion in 2011. In his remarks, Vilsack noted that every $1 billion in farm exports supports roughly 8,400 jobs in the United States, and that farm exports alone will support more than 1.1 million jobs in 2011. In the past five years, California farm exports have appreciated by 30 percent to more than $18.2 billion, supporting more than 150,000 jobs on and off the farm. In 2010, California ports handled a record $35 billion in agricultural exports. California is the nation's largest producer of agricultural products and the top exporting state.
Vilsack also spoke about the need to continue to reach out to small- and medium- sized businesses with guidance and assistance on breaking into export markets. Higher wages, rising populations and an expanding middle class have contributed to U.S. agriculture's export surge. But despite recent gains, only 1 percent of U.S. companies export, and Vilsack challenged the audience to do more to reach billions of potential consumers around the world. At the same time, USDA and the Obama Administration are helping America to help lay a foundation for a 21st-century economy, one that expands opportunities for businesses of all size, including farms and ranches.