Just a few weeks ago, USDA forecast 2012 farm exports to reach the second highest level on record, after 2011, making the past three years the strongest collective performance in our nation's history. Today, only 1 percent of U.S. companies export, and yet 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the borders of the United States, creating significant opportunities for U.S. food and agriculture.
Responding to that demand since 2009, U.S. farmers and ranchers have delivered three of the four highest levels of U.S. agricultural exports in American history. In fiscal year 2012, the latest forecast sees $134.5 billion in U.S. farm exports, the second highest level ever and $3.5 billion greater than the previous forecast. And Vilsack said he expects new trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and the European Union to deliver even greater returns for U.S. businesses.
Vilsack said USDA is committed to expanding export opportunities for all producers. When asked about outcomes of USDA's March trade mission to China—the department's largest trade mission to date—he highlighted that the delegation included 39 U.S. companies, representatives from six state departments of agriculture, and achieved nearly $2 million in immediate sales.
In terms of new agreements beyond South Korea and Columbia, Vilsack pointed out a recent, major partnership with the potential for substantial returns: the United States and European Union equivalency arrangement for organic agricultural goods. The U.S. and EU are the world's largest producers of organics, said Vilsack, and estimates show the market for U.S. organics sales to the EU could grow substantially within the first few years of this arrangement. Moreover, the arrangement will provide expanded market access, reduce duplicative requirements and reduce certification costs while protecting organic integrity.