President Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI), a program intended to coordinate federal efforts to double U.S. exports by 2014 and create several million new jobs, is providing support to businesses big and small to reach more of the world's consumers, said Vilsack. Some of the world's most noteworthy agribusinesses call St. Louis home, employing 20 percent of the workforce within a 500-mile radius of the city. On-farm employment represents just one-tenth of all agriculture-related employment, as opportunities in research, education, food processing, and trade are abundant in the area. At the same time, Missouri farm exports have doubled in value over the past five years, giving farm income and on-farm jobs a boost.

Vilsack pointed out that economic output is estimated to grow more under U.S.-Korea agreement than from the United States' last nine trade agreements combined. That type of growth would bring additional jobs to agriculture-focused areas like the ports and infrastructure along the Mississippi River, from Minneapolis to New Orleans, said Vilsack. USDA recently reported that grain barge traffic on the Mississippi near St. Louis was up 126 percent over last year.

Vilsack discussed how the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, which needs congressional ratification, will add tens of thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy, especially in major agriculture-producing states like Missouri. The U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement would eliminate tariffs on a variety of American goods — including agricultural products like soybeans, feed grains and beef — while adding tens of thousands of jobs to our economy.

Exports of U.S. farm goods in fiscal year 2011 (Oct. 1, 2010 — Sept. 30, 2011) are projected to surpass previous records by $20 billion. The agricultural trade balance — a balance of U.S. exports versus foreign imports — is also projected to set a record surplus of $47.5 billion in 2011. In his remarks, Vilsack noted that every $1 billion in farm exports supports roughly 8,400 jobs in the United States.