"It is critical for U.S. agriculture that we work together to move the three pending trade agreements as part of our broader trade agenda. Today, Korea, Columbia and Panama have approved or are negotiating trade agreements with a host of other nations, including the E.U., Canada, Mexico and New Zealand. Completing these three trade agreements will level the playing field with some competitors, and secure better markets for U.S. agriculture ahead of others.

"These trade agreements represent an important cornerstone of our strategy to continue to increase agricultural trade — but USDA is involved in a host of other efforts.

"Thanks to the President's National Export Initiative, which challenged U.S. businesses to double all exports by the end of 2014, USDA is reaching out to producers and agribusinesses, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, with information about how to tackle the export market and financing to make it happen. Whether it means helping small businesses attend trade shows, or directly connecting U.S. companies and trade groups with foreign customers by bringing them to the country, we are working to expand opportunities for agricultural trade.

"We have focused many of our efforts in developing countries with a growing middle class and increased purchasing power for high quality U.S. agricultural products. It is one of the reasons we sent trade missions to Indonesia and Peru this year, and why China became our biggest export market last year.

"We are engaged in non-stop efforts to break down sanitary and phytosanitary and technical barriers, advocating forcefully for the interests of American agriculture with other nations. USDA has also addressed export barriers to U.S. specialty crops, facilitating new exports and preventing disruptions that would have affected hundreds of millions of dollars in exports in Indonesia and the European Union.

"When I travel the country — especially rural America — and talk about trade, the message I hear is simple: We need an economy that makes, creates, and innovates. And we need a nation that exports.

"That is why I am so proud of USDA's work to increase exports and hopeful that Congress will act swiftly to approve these trade agreements. At the end of the day, increased exports mean more opportunities for small businesses owners and for folks who package, ship and market agricultural products. It means better incomes for our nation's farm families and more jobs across rural America.”