Governor Bob McDonnell announced the formal opening of a representative trade office in Canada focused on increasing agricultural and forestry product exports to the region. Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore attended the meeting on behalf of the Governor.
Speaking about the opening of the Canada trade office, Governor McDonnell stated, "Today marks the last major step in the agricultural and forestry product export growth initiative we began more almost four years ago designed to promote job creation, economic development, and new agricultural production opportunities. With the Canadian office established, Virginia now has agricultural trade offices in eight locations around the world, including some of the fasting growing regions and countries. The initiative is yielding solid results for the state's two largest industries. Exports have reached an all-time high in the last three years, and we expect more export successes in the coming year. Increased export opportunities for Virginia products mean more jobs and economic prosperity here in the Commonwealth."
Since 2010, Virginia has been implementing Governor McDonnell's initiative to increase agricultural and forestry exports from Virginia. The initiative includes utilizing representatives in Canada and focusing on export growth opportunities for products such as hardwood lumber, fresh produce, leaf tobacco, poultry, pork, seafood, wine, and other agricultural commodities. During a trade mission to Canada in 2012, Governor McDonnell announced the first Virginia beef cattle shipments to Canada, at the time our third largest export market. Since those initial shipments, Virginia has helped grow this business, with over $5 million in beef cattle being sold to Quebec beef cattle feeders. Now exceeding $200 million in annual value, Canada is currently Virginia's second largest international export market for agricultural products, behind only China.
At the Canadian office opening today, Secretary Haymore commented, "Canada has long been an important market for a number of Virginia agribusinesses, but we know we can grow our market share given our high quality products and close proximity. Because we are geographically close and easily accessible by truck and rail, Virginia's focus will be on increasing business and trade opportunities in Eastern Canada, thus helping increase employment in the Commonwealth. Indeed, every one dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.40 of in-state business activity to process, package, finance, and ship these products."
Secretary Haymore added, "Virginia's Canadian trade representatives have already started working on projects in the seafood, forestry, and specialty foods sectors, including participation in the SIAL Canada, one of the world's largest food and beverage trade shows, this spring. The Governor and I believe their work will help Virginia's agricultural exports reach new records by cultivating trade opportunities in this important region of the world."
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has hired full-service consulting firm Argyle Communications to represent Virginia's agricultural and forestry interests in Canada. Argyle, headquartered in Toronto, offers deep understanding and experience in marketing agribusiness products, and in reaching both consumer and trade audiences with strategic, cost-effective communications programs.
Daniel Tisch, President of Argyle Communications, stated, "We pride ourselves on building exceptional, long-term relationships with our clients, so while we get great short-term results, we also bring that long-term thinking to every client relationship, We are delighted to earn the opportunity to represent the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and look forward to supporting the state's efforts in agricultural and forestry trade in Canada."
As part of the Governor's agricultural export growth initiative, Secretary Haymore and VDACS Marketing and Development staff work in close partnership with Virginia's producers, agribusinesses, and exporters to retain strong market presence in mature and established markets, pursue new opportunities in emerging markets, and develop business in unconventional markets, such as Cuba and Venezuela. This team also works with state government partners, including the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, the Virginia Port Authority, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, to find more export opportunities.
To supplement the strategic effort, Governor McDonnell secured new international marketing funds from the General Assembly over the course of the administration for VDACS to open agricultural trade offices in India, China, Latin America, and Europe, all regions that contain some of the world's largest and fastest growing economies. VDACS has had a trade office in Hong Kong for more than 20 years. Organized international market development projects coordinated with Virginia's private sector exporters have resulted in more than $750 million in new agricultural exports from Virginia during the McDonnell administration. Overall agricultural exports from Virginia reached just over $2.61 billion in 2012, an all-time high.
Agriculture and forestry are Virginia's largest industries, with a combined economic impact of $70 billion annually: over $52 billion from agriculture and $17 billion from forestry. The industries also provide approximately 414,000 jobs in the Commonwealth according to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.