As drought continues across America, President Obama and I continue doing all we can to help producers. In addition to the actions the Administration has already taken, we will continue to work with Members of Congress toward passage of a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill -- because USDA needs tools to help, and producers need certainty in this difficult time.
While we know that the ongoing drought will impact yields, we also know that thanks to technology and the innovation of producers, many producers may still see a good year -- we won't know until harvest time. Meanwhile, USDA continues doing all we can to support a strong rural economy and a thriving agriculture sector.
A big part of this work is ensuring strong markets for quality American agricultural products. President Obama and I know that supporting strong markets for U.S. agricultural exports is crucial to continuing economic growth in rural America.
The world knows that U.S. farmers and ranchers produce the safest, highest quality food on the market. Last year, we exported a record amount of agricultural products -- more than $137 billion. Our agriculture trade surplus was nearly $43 billion, supporting more than 1.1 million American jobs.
While final numbers have not yet been released, Agricultural exports for this year are projected to be near last year's record total -- and if those projections hold we will have had the four best years for agricultural product exports in American history.
From day one, President Obama has been focused and clear in his commitment to doubling American exports through the National Export Initiative, and he has achieved historic results. For example, the President oversaw America's entry into new free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea that will produce more than $2 billion in economic benefits for our nation in 2012 and coming years.
And while USDA works hard to remove unfair barriers to trade around the world, we're also expanding opportunities for your products in growing markets. For example, along with other Federal partners we're working toward the "Trans-Pacific Partnership" to open new markets in Asia -- a region that represents more than 40 percent of global trade.
Ultimately, increased export opportunities have meant higher incomes for farmers and ranchers, greater opportunities for small businesses owners, and more jobs for people in rural communities. The Obama Administration is proud of these accomplishments to date, and we will continue working hard to drive the American economy forward.