The Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, and Virginia Port Authority will hold the third annual international trade workshop on March 16 and 17 in Norfolk, Va.

“Agricultural Trade: Opportunities in Uncertain Times” will be this year’s theme. The event, being held at the Sheraton Waterside Norfolk Hotel, will include a tour by boat of the Port of Virginia.

“The United States and Virginia are major players in the world of agricultural trade and well-positioned to build on their impressive production capabilities and transportation infrastructure in order to further solidify their roles and reputations as major exporters of agricultural products,” said Wayne Pryor, president of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “This year’s event will again offer an impressive lineup of presenters from both the public and private sector who will address a wide range of topics — including opportunities in Cuba — from both national and state perspectives.”

The workshop is designed to provide a forum for farmers, private sector businesses, industry officials, and policymakers to discuss export opportunities for U.S. and Virginia agriculture, federal and state programs to promote agricultural exports, and specific opportunities and obstacles to agricultural and food exports.

Confirmed conference speakers include

  • Todd Haymore, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry;
  • Jim Miller, undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
  • Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, chief agriculture negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative;
  • Pat Simonic, director of agriculture marketing at Norfolk Southern railroad;
  • Robert Thompson, senior fellow for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and professor emeritus of the University of Chicago; and
  • Bob Young, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, keynote luncheon speaker at the 2010 workshop, has been invited to speak again this year. Earlier this month, the governor’s office included this workshop in its agriculture and forestry initiatives announced for 2011. According to the announcement, the final 2010 agricultural and forestry products export figures will be released during the conference.

During a panel discussion, representatives from Australia, Japan, and Mexico will discuss trade issues and opportunities from the perspective of customers and competitors of the United States.

“Agriculture and food exports are important to U.S. farm income, and, despite record exports forecast for fiscal year 2011, U.S. agriculture is losing hundreds of millions of dollars in market opportunities because of obstacles it faces in exporting products to countries around the world,” said Richard Crowder, former U.S. chief agriculture trade negotiator and professor of agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech. “The importance of understanding and acting on trade issues and opportunities has never been greater. This workshop provides a unique opportunity for attendees to discuss trade issues and opportunities with exporters, national and state policymakers, and some of our most important trading partners.”

Registration is limited. For more information, visit the Virginia Farm Bureau website or contact Brenda Fleming at (804) 290-1155 or Spencer Neale at (804) 290-1153.