Bernadette Wiltz, SUSTA
In collaboration with World Perspectives, Inc.
U.S. export cooperator groups gather, learn about USDA efforts on trade and share best practices with each other.
The U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council (USAEDC) recently held its annual Attaché Seminar in Arlington, Virginia. The USAEDC is an organization comprised of 80-plus members including national commodity trade associations, farmer cooperatives and state regional trade groups – like SUSTA – who represent producers and exporters of food, fiber and seafood. The organization provides a forum and structure for its membership to exchange information collectively as well as with other groups, individuals and relevant federal agencies.
USAEDC has a strong, longstanding relationship with the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), and part of that relationship is built on the history of the annual Attaché Seminar. Each year, USAEDC gathers to host and hear from FAS personnel stationed around the globe. This year, in addition to an update from the Acting Administrator of FAS Holly Higgins, the group heard about market development opportunities directly from FAS personnel stationed in U.S. Embassies from Brasilia, Cairo, and Brussels, as well as on promotional activity that competing nations are bringing on-line. We also heard from USDA officials stationed in emerging markets like Argentina, Cuba, and Burma regarding long term export destinations, as well as intelligence on current major markets like Korea and Mexico.
Various USAEDC members, ranging from the California Almond Board to the Washington Apple Commission, shared their thoughts on various markets and recounted successful marketing strategies. These types of presentations and learning opportunities are helpful to us here at SUSTA, helping us continue to find efficiencies and more effectively assist Southern U.S. companies in their export endeavors.
One of the more interesting topics at this year’s conference was the proposed USDA reorganization announced by Secretary Sonny Perdue’s May 11, 2017 Memorandum. Under the new plan, a new Under Secretary position is being established that will focus entirely on Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. Furthermore, the Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service will create a new Inter-Agency Trade Policy Committee for the Under Secretary to lead. The committee will work to improve export opportunities and market access for U.S. food and agricultural products. The FAS Administrator will also review existing USDA trade policy and coordination procedures for trade policies before delivering a report to the Secretary before the end of the summer.
As Secretary Perdue has said, his goal is to be “American agriculture’s unapologetic advocate and chief salesman around the world” and the reorganization plan creating a new Under Secretary is intended to help him achieve this goal. Agricultural and food exports account for 20 percent of the value of production, and every dollar of these exports creates another $1.27 in
business activity. Additionally, every $1 billion in U.S. agricultural exports supports approximately 8,000 American jobs across the entire American economy. As the global marketplace becomes more competitive every day, the United States must position itself in the best way possible to retain its standing as a world leader. That is the purpose not only of the new USDA reorganization, but of the U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council’s efforts to support U.S. food and ag exporters across regions, products and commodity groups.