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.

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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.”

Ag Secretary Vilsack’s Comments on 2015 USDA Budget and 2014 Farm Bill In a Nutshell

USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated yesterday that the President’s 2015 USDA budget proposal and the tools provided in the 2014 farm bill:

  • Achieve reform and results for the American taxpayer
  • Foster opportunity and long-term, sustainable economic growth for the men and women living, working and raising families in rural America, where 85 percent of our nation’s persistent poverty counties are located.
  • Equip our farmers and ranchers with the tools they need to survive and thrive
  • Support innovation through strategic, future-focused investments.

Economically, the 2015 budget:

Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack
Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack
  • Supports farmers, ranchers and growers as they achieve net farm income well above the average of the previous decade
  • Assists mid-sized farms and livestock producers who continue to face challenges as a result of prolonged drought.

Implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill should:

  • Restore disaster assistance
  • Invest in programs to help and train beginning, small and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers
  • Invest in programs that will build the skills they need to get back into the workforce.
  • Provide much-needed stability for producers moving forward
  • Support hardworking Americans as they find and keep jobs and transition out of nutrition assistance programs

Last fiscal year, farm and ranch exports reached a record $141 billion and supported nearly one million American jobs. 
To help America’s producers break into new exports markets for farm and ranch products, and building off of President Obama’s recently announced “Made in Rural America” export initiative, USDA will continue funding for trade promotion and market expansion.

Supported by the recently signed 2014 Farm Bill, the budget:

  • US_Department_of_Agriculture circular logoEstablishes Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change at seven locations around the country
    • The Southwest Climate Hub is: Rangeland Management Unit/JornadaExperimental Range, Agricultural Research Service, Las Cruces, N.M.
    • The Southwest “Sub-hub” is in Davis, California
  • Makes targeted investments in bio-based product manufacturing, local and regional food systems, and specialty crops and organic production.
  • Adds about 23 million acres of land to USDA conservation efforts Sustains 25 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, ensuring clean air, clean and abundant water and critical wildlife habitat for generations to come.
  • Makes strategic investments that further innovation and encourage creative approaches to solving rural America’s most pressing challenges
  • Increases funding by $325 million for our premier competitive grants program to support the cutting edge research that will help producers adapt and succeed in the face of modern challenges, including a changing climate
  • Provides $25 million each to three public-private innovation institutes that focus on bio-based product manufacturing, pollinator health, and anti-microbial resistance research, respectively.
  • Recognizes fiscal realities; it supports USDA’s ongoing efforts to modernize and update the way we do business.
  • Builds on our efforts through the Blueprint for Stronger Service, which in recent years has saved the American taxpayer a total of $1.2 billion while ensuring that USDA customers receive the best possible service
  • Continues to support our leaner workforce to find ways to implement increasingly complex programs with fewer resources.

The security of our nation’s food and fiber supply depends on what we do today to support a rural America that is increasingly nimble, diverse and responsive to changing consumer tastes.