Takeaways from the Virginia Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade

The 14th Annual Virginia Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade was held on March 29 in downtown Richmond. This conference was started at the Virginia Farm Bureau West Creek headquarters and continues to be co-sponsored by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation (VFBF), Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

Several VFBF staff members attended the conference and learned a great deal from presentations related to U.S. agriculture trade and domestic policy updates, adapting to more extreme and variable weather patterns, looking beyond the Phase One trade agreement, supply chain challenges and opportunities, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the effect on world trade, and current events in Europe and their effect on global and U.S. agriculture. Here are a few thoughts and takeaways from VFBF staff:

Brett Bruen used the term “Post-American era”, to refer to our current time where other countries are uncertain of America’s willingness to intervene in geopolitical situations around the globe. While that term was challenging to hear, it was also motivation for the agricultural industry to intensify diversification efforts and increase resiliency both for sourcing inputs and finding new and varied markets for outputs. In this age of increasing volatility, developing effective risk management strategies will be vital for Virginia agriculture to stay competitive on the global stage. In short, times of great uncertainty are also times of great opportunity.

-Elijah Griles, Commodity Specialist

The session on supply chain challenges impacting U.S. ports was insightful, especially with the state-specific data supplied by the representatives from the Port of Virginia, including how well the Port of Virginia is rising up to current challenges, compared to the other major U.S. ports. The two last sessions on the Russian invasion of Ukraine provided helpful information on diplomatic efforts to put a halt to Russia’s encroachment efforts, and how the last four weeks may disrupt Ukrainian farmers’ harvest and planting seasons; along with the impacts the invasion will likely have on worldwide food supply.  I gained a better understanding of the major agricultural exports of the Ukraine and Russia and the countries they supply those exports to.

-Kathleen Early, Corporate Secretary

I considered the speakers to be of a very high level—first class—and appreciated the Q&A part of each presentation. There was great discussion on the answers by the speakers. In addition, the networking, building, and food were so special. We are all so thankful for how good we have it! There was amazing attendance by the target audience, including a continued presence of students who received much recognition. The conference still has a great reputation as a “time well spent” meeting.

-Robert Harper, Grain Division Manager

I was interested to hear about the emerging markets in southeast Asia and projections that 50% of the population growth in the next 15 years will be in Africa. I’ve heard prior statements to this growth, but 50% in Africa seems very high. Similarly, I’ve been aware of the droughts and struggles on the west coast, but I wasn’t aware of the planting restrictions, which are very concerning.

-Matt Nuckols, District 7 Field Service Director/Fundraising Specialist

Having spent much of her career leading agriculture trade negotiations for the United States, Sharon Bomer Lauristen’s insight into the development, monitoring, and enforcement of the U.S.-China Phase One Trade Agreement was incredibly interesting. She indicated that China appears committed to improving food safety, but has a lack of understanding of the U.S. science-based system, which leads to a distrust of certain products. Looking to the future, there is a need for U.S. agriculture to diversify its markets through market access in new trade agreements, as well as separate geopolitical issues and food security.  

-Stefanie Taillon, Senior Assistant Director, Governmental Relations

For more details on the conference, be sure to read VFBF News Leads:

Virginia farm exports reached all-time high in 2021

Impact of Ukrainian conflict on U.S. agriculture discussed at trade conference

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