Big Exports Numbers Mean Big Responsibilities for California

California Exported $20 Billion in Food Products in 2016

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

It’s no secret that California’s agricultural exports are a huge part of the state’s economy—but to put it in perspective, over $20 billion worth of food and agricultural products were exported in 2016 alone (the latest figures). With numbers like these, people like Glen Roberts of the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Administration are kept busy.

Roberts, who is part of the Global Markets sector and based in Fresno, not only works with what he calls “easy” exports like Mexico and Canada, but other places across the globe, shipping anything and everything from food to machinery.

Glen Roberts

When it comes to his role in California, Roberts explained, “Our office covers from the top of the Grapevine, Kern County, all the way up to Stanislaus County from San Louis Obispo over to Nevada.”

His sector, which handles more of the commercial side of things, acts as a gateway to other government programs that help out with international trade.

Although Roberts’ main focus is commercial, he’s still one of the go-to guys in agriculture exports.

“What happened when the almond prices dropped? I got the calls because Foreign Ag Service doesn’t handle contractual disputes,” he said.

Roberts further added, “I had to help out our local almond growers because the buyers didn’t want to pay the higher contracted price. They wanted to buy the new lower market price.”

USDA Helps Open and Expand Export Markets for U.S. Agriculture

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service has awarded funding to more than 60 U.S. agricultural organizations to help expand commercial export markets for American products.

“The Market Access and Foreign Market Development Programs help agricultural organizations representing thousands of producers and businesses open and grow markets for American products around the world,” Vilsack said. “Exports create jobs and foster growth that is critically important for rural communities and our entire nation’s economy.”

Through the Market Access Program (MAP), Foreign Agricultural Service partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities. The program, which focuses on consumer promotion, including brand promotion for small companies and cooperatives, is used extensively by organizations promoting fruits, vegetables, nuts, processed products, and bulk and intermediate commodities. Through MAP, the Foreign Agricultural Service will provide $173.2 million to 62 nonprofit organizations and cooperatives. Participants contribute an average 214 percent match for generic marketing and promotion activities and a dollar-for-dollar match for promotion of branded products by small businesses and cooperatives.

The Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program focuses on trade servicing and trade capacity building by helping to create, expand and maintain long-term export markets for U.S. agricultural products. Under FMD, also known as the Cooperator Program, the Foreign Agricultural Service will allocate $26.7 million to 22 trade organizations that represent U.S. agricultural producers. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service partners with U.S. agricultural producers and processors, who are represented by non-profit commodity or trade associations called cooperators. The organizations, which on average contribute nearly triple the amount they receive in federal resources, will conduct activities that help maintain or increase the demand for U.S. agricultural commodities overseas.

USDA’s international market development programs have had a significant and positive impact on U.S. agricultural exports. An independent study released in 2010 found that trade promotion programs like MAP and FMD provide $35 in economic benefits for every dollar spent by government and industry on market development.

The past six years represent the strongest period for U.S. agricultural exports in the history of the United States. Farm exports in fiscal year 2014 reached a record $152.5 billion and supported 1 million jobs in the United States.

CDFA Official on Success and Future of California Dairy

Karen Ross, Secretary for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, talks about the role of California Dairy has on the current global market, and what the future hold for the industry.

“So we really have seen a couple things going on. One is this huge constant demand for California milk-based products. the export markets looking for powders, they can’t get enough powders, they have huge confidence in the food safety of our milk production here, we‘re strategically located,” said Ross. “So that demand has really drive up prices, but at the same time fortunately for us our friends in the Midwest had great corn and soybean harvest and so those grain prices had moderated so that farmers are finally to the point where their realizing some margins and they need to rebuild their equity,” she added.

Ross mentions that industry leaders are already looking towards the future.

“We also to the credit of the leaders and the producers and processor community, are still meeting as part of their California Dairy Futures Task Force, and we actually have a couple different proposals for some reform to of our pricing system going forward, that we are taking a deeper dive in. We have some economists that are doing some analytics on that and concurrently the cooperative continues to work on the petition and we will find out people are willing to consider seriously going into a federally milk marketing order. ” said Ross.

Ross explains some aspects of the dairy industry need to change.

“So I think its healthy for the industry now that we have some margins in the business and to really think about our future and this almost 60-year old pricing system, and what works, and we want to retain and where we need to create some flexibility so that we can be very competitive  and maximize our opportunities in the export market.” said Ross.