Feb. 23 update: Gov. Bob McDonnell will open the conference at  noon on March 13 with a keynote speech on agricultural exports. He will address how agriculture and forestry, the state’s largest industries, impact Virginia’s economy.  He will also announce total figures for agricultural exports from Virginia for 2011.   

Virginia’s agricultural export opportunities and challenges will be a focal point for discussion during the 2012 Governor's Conference on Agricultural Trade, taking place March 13 and 14 at the Omni Hotel in Richmond, Va.

This fourth annual conference is organized by Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, and the Virginia Port Authority.

Nationally, U.S. agricultural exports reached a record $137 billion in fiscal 2011, double the level of five years ago. “Not only is the value of exports increasing, but we are also exporting a greater percent of our production,” said Wayne Pryor, president of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

Virginia exports totaled $2.24 billion in 2010, according to the state’s latest available data. That is only slightly behind the record $2.3 billion for agricultural exports in 2009.  

“Given the significant importance of exports to Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries; the pending implementation of the Colombia, Korea, and Panama Free Trade Agreements; and a 2012 Farm Bill, the governor’s conference provides a unique opportunity for individuals and organizations in Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries,” said Ambassador Richard Crowder, professor of agricultural and applied economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

“We will be privileged to hear from impressive, senior representatives of at least five of Virginia’s major trading partners, explaining their prospective on what is critical to meet their countries demand for agriculture and forestry products,” said Crowder, former U.S. chief agriculture trade negotiator.

This year’s conference program promises to be the strongest yet.

The conference speakers include

• Ambassador Gabriel Silva Luján, Colombia;
• Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore;
• Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, chief agriculture negotiator for the U.S.;
• American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman;  
• Rabobank America’s global strategist David Nelson; and
• Russell and Barron’s principal Randy Russell.

This year’s program will, again, include the popular embassy panel, including representatives from Egypt, India, and New Zealand, according to the event’s organizers.  A representative from Korea will discuss the opportunities from the implementation of the U.S. Korea Free Trade Agreement.

Participants will learn from the frontlines of business by hearing from Virginia’s agricultural and forest product exporters who will share their experiences of how they meet the needs of their offshore customers.

“Equally important, the conference provides the opportunity for attendees to express their priorities and concerns to federal and state policy makers, and interact with important international customers,” Crowder said.

Registration is limited. For more information contact Spencer Neale at 804-290-1153, and to register, visit the conference website




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