International trade is a critical contributor to economic prosperity in Iowa. According to the Business Roundtable, about 2,500 Iowa companies export their products and services internationally.
The export of farm goods is an especially important component of the trade picture. Beef and pork producers are key players in the state's agricultural economy and both benefit greatly from international customers. The Global Trade Information Service has calculated that the Hawkeye State exports beef products to more than 21 countries and pork products to about 41.
Analysts estimate that every third row of Iowa crops is destined for a market outside the United States.
That's why it's important that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is pursuing aggressively policies to increase the demand abroad for American agricultural products.
Earlier this month, Tom Vilsack, Iowa's former governor and the current U.S. secretary of agriculture, announced that the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service has awarded funding for fiscal year 2013 to 70 nonprofit U.S. agricultural oganizations. The goal is to enable them to help expand commercial export markets for goods produced in rural America.
This funding is provided under the department's Market Access Program and involves matching participation from the selected entities. Additionally, the USDA is channeling monies to 25 trade organizations representing U.S. agricultural producers through its Foreign Market Development Program. These groups also share in the cost of the initiatives.
Strengthening the already robust rural economy through expanding export opportunities is an important priority at the USDA - and should remain so.
"Through MAP, FMD and other market development programs, USDA helps U.S. agricultural organizations, representing thousands of producers and businesses, open and expand international markets for U.S. agricultural exports," Vilsack in a statement regarding the funds the USDA is committing. "Ultimately, these efforts are helping achieve President Obama's National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014."
According to information released by the USDA, an independent study released in 2010 concluded that "for every $1 expended by government and industry on market development, U.S. food and agricultural exports increase by $35."
Consequently, these expenditures are a sensible investment of taxpayer dollars in growing the economy.
There is powerful evidence that assorted efforts to develop foreign customers for U.S. goods are succeeding. According to the USDA, farm exports in fiscal year 2012 reached $135.8 billion and support roughly 1 million jobs in the U.S. The department is forecasting an almost $4 billion increase in agricultural exports for fiscal year 2013.
That's welcome news for our nation and most especially for rural America.