The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reworking its export strategy, sharpening focus on specific countries rather than larger regions, in an effort to sell more grains, meats and other farm products to foreign markets, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said today.

While the USDA traditionally viewed trading partners by geographic regions, it now will define countries by an “agricultural market continuum” comprised of five categories, enabling “tailored strategies to increase exports to each individual market,” according to a USDA statement.

The new strategy will “improve collaboration among USDA agencies and guide priorities for international staffing, foreign assistance, and agricultural research,” the statement said.

The USDA’s new strategy is part of President Obama’s goal to double all U.S. exports in the next five years, Vilsack said in address today in Anaheim, Calif., at the Commodity Classic, a conference run by the National Corn Growers Association and American Soybean Association.

USDA efforts “will play an important role in our effort to rebuild rural communities across the country,” Vilsack said at the conference, according to the USDA statement.  “Increased trade will not only create important income opportunities for producers, but also the off-farm jobs that are so critical for revitalizing rural America.”

U.S. meat and dairy product exports declined last year as a weak global economy curtailed demand and the H1N1 virus outbreak prompted some countries to ban U.S. pork imports.

Dairy product export volume dropped 16 percent from 2008 levels, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Beef and pork exports fell 0.8 percent and 11 percent, respectively, according to USDA data.

Under the new strategy, the USDA will define countries by one of five categories: A fragile market/food security state, a potential growth market, a restricted-access market, a potential growth market or a developed consumer market. The USDA statement didn’t mention any specific countries.

In potential growth markets, USDA programs will now “emphasize building the institutional and human capacity needed to support increased trade,” according to the statement.

In restricted-access markets, the USDA will try to remove trade barriers, the agency said. In rapid growth markets, the USDA said it “will emphasize using a full range of programs to build trade capacity, remove trade barriers and develop new markets for U.S. products.”

Agricultural exports are expected to bounce back this year, helped by the resolution of trade disputes between the U.S. and major buyers such as Russia.

Earlier this week, Russia agreed to lift import bans on U.S. pork. Russia had banned imports claiming antibiotic residues were found in the meat they were receiving, Reuters reported. Russia was the fifth-biggest market for U.S. pork last year.

The U.S. will export 4.5 billion pounds of pork and 2.04 billion pounds of beef in 2010, up 8.4 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively, from 2009, according to USDA projections. Dairy export volume is expected to increase 7 percent to 12 percent, according to the Dairy Export Council.