Virginia farm exports reached all-time high

Published 11:00 am Sunday, April 10, 2022

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If Virginia farmers were playing in a basketball tournament, they’d be a top-seeded team. That’s according to Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a basketball fan and self-proclaimed “enthusiastic, fully-energized chief marketing officer” for Virginia agriculture.

“We’re here to win, and to take Virginia agriculture to the next level,” Youngkin told participants in the 14th Annual Virginia Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade on March 29. The annual conference is co-sponsored by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

“Last year we exported more than $4.1 billion in agriculture and forestry products — an all-time high for the commonwealth,” Youngkin said. “In fact, it was 28% higher than the year before. We are off to an extraordinary start in 2022.”

Youngkin noted that Virginia’s farm and forestry industries account for $91 billion in overall economic activity for the state, along with 440,000 jobs. That makes farming a slam-dunk for his administration. “This is a sector we must continue to grow,” he declared.

The governor’s message dovetailed with similar positive news about American farm exports. According to U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, farm exports boomed last year despite shipping delays and other pandemic challenges.

“Worldwide exports of many U.S. products, including soybeans, corn, beef, pork, dairy, distillers’ grains and dairy all reached all-time highs,” Bronaugh said. “And so we’re currently forecasting another record year of exports in 2022, up by more than $10 billion over the previous year.”

Bronaugh praised Virginia farmers for their role in helping America remain the most dependable supplier of farm products in the world.

“We saw gains in China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, the Philippines and Columbia — all setting new records in those markets,” she said. “And when I think about Virginia’s strong agricultural exports, like soybeans, soybean oil, wood products, tobacco, just to name a few. Virginia really supports this effort we’re really doing” to boost farm exports.

Looking ahead, Bronaugh noted that U.S. farm exports to Southeast Asia have grown to 10% of all sales over the past decade. And with population expected to boom in Africa in the next few years, she said, farmers and agribusinesses should turn their sights to those markets.

In pre-recorded remarks to the conference, VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor noted that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2022 annual report to Congress put an emphasis on expanding ag exports. “The Trade Policy Agenda also acknowledges the profound importance of maintaining a U.S.-China trade relationship. And it recognizes that our respective countries can flourish as both trade partners and competitors. It also asserts that any competition must be fair,” Pryor said.

“For Virginia ag trade to remain viable and profitable, we need a global system that enforces environmental standards and ensures that regulations are predictable and science-based.”