Annual conference set to showcase agricultural trade

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is set to showcase the state’s agricultural export industry at the seventh annual Conference on Agricultural Trade.

The governor will co-host the conference in conjunction with four state agencies, including the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The two-day event is set to take place March 9-10 at the Richmond Marriott Hotel and will feature a wide array of speakers, from leaders in economics and agriculture to foreign ambassadors.

Todd Haymore, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry, said, “I think the line-up of speakers this year shows how much the conference has grown, not only in the number of people attending, but also in stature.”

Among those attending and speaking will be United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer.

According to a news release about the conference, Canada has been the country’s “longest standing top market,” with more than $259 million in trade reported for 2013.

The goal of the conference, Haymore said, will be to show “how important agricultural and forest exports are to Virginia’s economy.”

Haymore noted that the economic impact of agricultural exports has grown by 34 percent since 2010.

McAuliffe is expected to announce at the conference that Virginia’s agricultural exports will top $3 billion for the first time in the state’s history.

“I think that [number] will help explain how really important … exports are,” Haymore said.

Haymore said that the expectation is that exports in the areas of agriculture and forestry will continue to increase.

“Even though no specific goal has been set for 2015,” he said, “We would still like to see 5 percent-plus gains each year.”

Looking past the economic aspects of exports, Haymore said, “[The conference] is raising Virginia’s profile in the agricultural and forestry world.”

With recent developments including expanded apple exports to India, McAuliffe has been actively seeking to expand Virginia’s trade output as a part of his “New Virginia Economy” effort.

Haymore has said that the goal is to make Virginia the leader in agricultural exports in the United States.

According to Haymore, the infrastructure for Virginia’s growth is  “in place” with “outstanding products, an outstanding port, exporters ready and able and people around the world promoting Virginia.”

“When your industry is helping to clothe and feed the world, you should have a big seat at the table,” Haymore said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com