Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 saw the United States once again make significant gains in the international trade as USDA expanded opportunities for American producers overseas.  In FY14 American farmers and ranchers exported a record $152.5 billion of food and agricultural goods to consumers worldwide, an $11.6 billion increase over FY13’s figures.

USDA plays a key role in fostering American agricultural exports by opening new markets for our producers and ensuring their products meet foreign requirements for import.  As a result of these efforts, U.S. agricultural exports now drive overall U.S. economic growth by supporting nearly 1 million American jobs on and off the farm.  These trade efforts also contribute to a strong rural economy, which is critical to the overall economic health of the United States.

FY 2014 capped a six-year period that represents the strongest period for agricultural exports in our nation’s history.  From FY 2009 to FY 2014 U.S. agricultural exports totaled $771.7 billion.

To support this thriving trade, USDA ensures American agricultural exports are free from pests and diseases of concern to trading partners, certifies that the millions of U.S agricultural and food exports meet the importing countries’ entry requirements, and solves issues involving U.S. shipments held at foreign ports of entry.

In FY14 USDA resolved more than 170 trade-related issues involving U.S. agricultural exports valued at $2.5 billion.  For example, USDA worked with trading partners to successfully release 273 shipments of American agricultural products that were held up in transport, with a value in excess of $49 million.  This meant products like almonds, meat and poultry entered Europe, Asia and other continents to be processed or purchased and enjoyed by overseas consumers.

USDA continually removes barriers that impact trade to create new market opportunities for U.S. producers.  In 2014 USDA removed restrictions to help farmers export chilled pork to Colombia, live swine to China and cattle to Mexico.  USDA and Canada, in 2014, negotiated and signed guidelines that facilitate exports to Canada valued at over $300 million.  USDA also worked with Chinese officials to open China’s market to U.S. apples, a major achievement.  In the first full season of trade, the U.S. apple industry expects to ship apples valued at nearly $100 million to Chinese consumers.

In other efforts to facilitate trade, USDA issued nearly 892,000 certificates in 2014 to allow the export of U.S.- raised animals, plants and plant and animal products to countries around the world.

USDA also helps foster trade by working with our stakeholders, industry and exporters to share information about foreign rules that would impact their ability to trade internationally.  We continually alert exporters to proposed changes in foreign import requirements and comment on the development of foreign regulations so we can minimize impacts on U.S. agricultural exports.  In FY14 alone, USDA reviewed nearly 2,000 such measures, submitting comments to foreign governments on 261 of them.

We are proud of our efforts so far and their immense benefit to agriculture, but we continually work to build upon our successes.  Right now, USDA is in the midst of negotiating an important trade deal that would provide 480 million consumers in 11 partner countries with the opportunity to enjoy U.S. agricultural products.  The hallmarks of this Trans-Pacific Partnership would be transparency and scientific decision-making.  The end result for U.S. agriculture would be expanded access for commodities that currently face restrictive barriers in these 11 countries, including meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, and processed foods.

So, while we celebrate the past year’s accomplishments that foster free and fair trade, we look forward to FY2015 and bringing even greater access to international markets for U.S. agricultural products.  USDA will continue to pursue opportunities to increase agricultural exports, helping farm and ranch businesses grow and supporting a strong, vital rural economy.