Governor Bob McDonnell has announced that in 2010, despite a worldwide recession and a statewide drought that impacted several key commodities, Virginia farm exports totaled $2.24 billion.

That is only slightly behind the record $2.3 billion for agricultural exports in 2009. Additionally, 2011 is already shaping up to be another very good year. Year-to-date numbers are up two percent over 2010 figures, which bodes well for the rest of the year. The announcement came as the 3rd Annual International Virginia Agricultural Trade Conference concluded in Norfolk.

Speaking about last year's export numbers, Governor McDonnell commented, "When you consider the worldwide recession, severe drought in areas of Virginia and political turmoil around the world, the 2010 figures are very promising. Virginia currently ranks ninth in the nation in agricultural export value. Agriculture and forestry are the top two industries in Virginia, and we must continue to strengthen and grow them to ensure our economic vitality.

“Agriculture exports mean good jobs for our citizens. As we continue to place a greater emphasis on the export of Virginia products around the world, our growers and producers — some of the best in the world — are geared up to increase their export business. We have an aggressive marketing agenda in 2011 and beyond to promote Virginia products globally, including trade missions to Asia, India and Israel, and additional Secretarial missions to the United Kingdom, Cuba and other places."

Much of the strength in Virginia's exports is its diversified portfolio of products and export markets. Top products this past year were soybeans, grains (wheat, corn, barley, animal feed), pork, poultry, leaf tobacco, wood products and logs, fats and oils, cotton, seafood and aquaculture products, fresh vegetables and hides and skins.

Virginia's Top 20 export markets are a mix of developed and emerging markets, including Canada in the No. 1 spot, China, Morocco, Belgium, Indonesia, Tunisia, Turkey, Venezuela, Russia, Ireland, Japan, The Netherlands, Germany, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Jamaica.

Strategic location

In addition to having outstanding farmers and producers, Virginia's standing as a top agricultural and forestry products exporter are enhanced by a strategic mid-Atlantic location, a business-friendly climate, and the state's world-class air, sea port facilities and inland port, as well as excellent rail and interstate systems.

Virginia, in coordination with the state's agricultural and forestry interests, has a strategic plan to continue to grow its agricultural and forestry exports. The state's efforts, led by the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd P. Haymore and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Marketing and Development staff, focus on retaining strong market presence in mature and established markets like Canada, China and Japan, and aggressively pursuing growth opportunities in emerging markets such as India, Turkey, and Mexico.

In addition, Virginia also continues developing business in unconventional markets, such as Cuba and Venezuela, both of which offer great export opportunities for the state's growers and producers. Secretary Haymore and VDACS will also work with its partners in state government, including the Secretariat of Commerce and Trade, the Virginia Port Authority and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, to find more export opportunities.

Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Haymore served as the keynote speaker at the International Virginia Agricultural Trade Conference, where his remarks focused on 2010 export figures and the state's strategy to grow exports in 2011 through an aggressive international marketing agenda.

"We knew the challenging global economic climate, trade barriers faced by our exporters, and the severe drought and excessive heat that negatively impacted several of our key export products, would make it difficult for export growth in 2010," Haymore said. "Despite these challenges, Virginia's agricultural and forestry exports still almost matched the all-time high reached in 2009. In 2011, we forecast that Virginia is on course to exceed 2010 export levels and hopefully better our 2009 numbers if Mother Nature, the global economy, and geo-political events cooperate. That is the goal.

“Working with our growers, agribusinesses, exporters and partners in state government, the Governor, VDACS staff, and I are committed to growing our exports of agricultural and forestry products because they are so vital to Virginia's economic vitality."

Agriculture and forestry are Virginia's largest industries according to a 2008 economic impact study completed by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. The industries have an economic impact of $79 billion annually: $55 billion from agriculture and $24 billion from forestry. The industries also provide approximately 500,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.