The Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade has once again proven that Virginia agricultural products are having a moment around the world.
At the Richmond conference on Monday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia saw $3.19 billion in agricultural and forestry exports in 2015. That figure closes the gap between Virginia, which is the second-largest exporter on the East Coast, and Georgia, which is in first place. A number of challenges, including depressed commodity prices and trade bans, kept the 2015 numbers from surpassing the 2014 exports figures, which set a record at $3.35 billion.
Today’s announcement is a testament to the combined work of so many in the private and public sectors and I applaud those efforts,” McAuliffe said at the conference Monday.
Virginia Tech is a critical component of the agricultural export market and continues to be a significant partner in growing exports through research, outreach, and education initiatives.
Among the top agricultural exports in recent years are poultry, wheat, pork, tobacco, soybeans, and wine — all commodities for which Virginia Tech provides crucial research and outreach services through the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Cooperative Extension.
The conference began eight years ago when Ambassador Richard Crowder, the C.G. Thornhill Professor of Agricultural Trade at Virginia Tech, reached out to Virginia's agriculture community to initiate a conference on global trade and policy. The event is co-hosted by the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Though there are many challenges in the coming decades — including water use, a decrease in agricultural lands, and reduced available labor — Virginia Tech is positioned to turn these problems into opportunities as it educates a new generation of scientists, develops research solutions, and shares this knowledge with the world.
In recent years, the university has created a series of new interdisciplinary majors on subjects including water, nanoscience, microbiology, and sustainable biomaterials that will prepare the next generation of scientists to deal with emerging issues that address the challenges that will come with feeding and clothing 9 billion people by the year 2050.
Virginia Tech’s most recent ranking of federally funded research and development expenditures in agricultural science programs rose to fifth in the nation, securing the university and its research faculty as globally recognized leaders addressing grand challenges facing society.
Much of that population growth in the coming decades is in the regions of the world where Virginia is exporting its products.
“In spite of a challenging global marketplace, Virginia continues to be a leader in promoting agricultural exports, which have grown in value by 42 percent since 2010 when we launched a strategic initiative to increase shipments of these products,” said Todd Haymore, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.
Attendees at this year’s conference included ambassadors and dignitaries from around the globe.
The top agricultural and forestry product exports from Virginia in 2015 include: soybeans; pork; lumber and logs; soybean meal; leaf tobacco; processed foods and beverages, including wine, craft beer, and distilled spirits; wood pellets and chips; poultry; soybean oil; wheat; animal feed; corn; raw peanuts; seafood and other marine products; and cotton.
Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.
Written by Amy Loeffler