FAS points to trade and market development achievements

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a Dec. 21 review pointed to progress achieved in agricultural exports in 2017 with U.S. farm and food exports reaching $140.5 billion for fiscal year 2017, the third-highest total on record.

“As we wrap up another banner year for U.S. agricultural exports, I’m proud of the role that FAS has played,” said acting administrator Holly Higgins, “especially since those exports generate 20% of U.S. farm income, stimulate rural economic activity and support more than a million American jobs.

“FAS staff around the globe have worked tirelessly with their counterparts across the USDA, finding, opening and expanding markets for the high-quality food, fuel, feed, and fiber that our farmers and ranchers produce. We’ve done so by focusing on what we call our ‘three pillars’ — trade policy, trade promotion, and trade capacity building and food security.”

In the trade policy arena, the FAS said efforts to break down barriers and pursue export opportunities resulted in new or expanded market access for numerous U.S. farm products in 2017, including beef and rice to China, poultry and eggs to South Korea, rice to Colombia, chipping potatoes to Japan, distillers dried grains to Vietnam and China, and new biotech corn and soybean varieties to China.

In addition, the FAS’s worldwide staff assisted U.S. exporters in releasing hundreds of shipments, valued at more than $27 million, that were detained at foreign ports. This ensured that perishable U.S. products, ranging from poultry in Turkey, to almonds in Spain, to cheese in Chile, to crabs in China, to eggs in Japan, made it to their final destinations safely, the agency said.

grain shipping
As part of its ongoing efforts to help U.S. agribusinesses expand their global reach, the FAS organized international trade missions to Egypt, Brazil and India in 2017. These missions generated more than $30 million in projected 12-month sales for the participating U.S. companies.

In addition, the FAS coordinated the participation of nearly 1,000 U.S. companies and organizations in 20 USDA-endorsed trade shows in 14 countries, resulting in reported on-site sales of nearly $300 million and 12-month projected sales estimated at more than $2.35 billion.

With regard to developing potential trade opportunities in emerging markets, the FAS international fellowship and exchange programs enabled 712 foreign researchers, policymakers and agricultural specialists from 55 lower- and middle-income countries to work alongside U.S. mentors and trainers in 2017 in order to acquire knowledge and skills to help build their countries’ agricultural sectors and increase their ability to engage in global trade.

And through FAS food assistance programs, more than 277,000 tonnes of U.S. commodities were provided to help meet nutritional needs and support agricultural development and education for an estimated 4.8 million beneficiaries in 25 food-insecure countries.

“With 2018 on the horizon, FAS staff members in Washington and 93 worldwide offices are redoubling their commitment to opening and expanding export markets and breaking down trade barriers for U.S. farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses,” Higgins said. "We’re proud to be part of the USDA team that, in Secretary Perdue’s words, is working to ‘do right and feed everyone.’”