RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia farm and forestry exports reached a record $2.85 billion last year, with soybeans leading the way and China the prime destination.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe released the export numbers Thursday as the sixth Governor's Conference on Agricultural Trade got underway. The value of 2013 exports is up more than 8 percent from the previous year, also a record.
McAuliffe said his administration will strive to make Virginia "the East Coast capital" for agricultural and forestry exports, which have grown by 27 percent since 2010 when the state launched a strategic plan to increase its farm exports.
McAuliffe said he plans to promote exports by helping agribusiness expand operations, attracting new agribusiness to Virginia, broadening the state's global export reach, and investing in rural infrastructure to get products to the port.
By expanding export sales, McAuliffe said in remarks prepared for delivery, the state can achieve "important goals such as preserving more working farmland and attracting new business investments in agricultural processing and related industries."
Todd Haymore, secretary of agriculture and forestry, said the 2013 record export number was achieved despite sharp decreases in prices for some key products. That was offset by strong demand and an aggressive marketing strategy, he said.
Haymore, who also served in the McDonnell administration, has been the state's primary export ambassador. The state now has trade offices in Canada, mainland China and Hong Kong, Russia, India, Europe and Southeast Asia.
"Exporters can now take advantage of Virginia's new network of trade representatives in key markets around the globe who have expertise in a variety of important market regions and countries," Haymore said in a statement.
The top three export markets for Virginia in 2013 were China, Canada and Switzerland. China imported more than $580 million in Virginia products, while Canada accounted for $259 million of the state's exports. Switzerland imported more than $190 million in products.
Among some 20 destinations for Virginia farm and forest products were Russia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Italy and Poland.
The top export products were soybeans and soybean products, lumber, leaf tobacco, wheat, corn, barley and other grains, animal feed, pork, poultry and seafood, wine, animal fats, peanuts and cotton.
Agriculture and forestry are two of Virginia's largest industries with a combined economic impact of $70 billion annually, according to an analysis by the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Combined they provide more than 400,000 jobs in the state.
The two-day conference brings together growers, exporters, and foreign dignitaries, including ambassadors from Japan and Vietnam. Its sponsors include the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the Virginia Port Authority, Virginia Tech and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sszkotakap.