The first step in running a successful farm or ranch business is identifying a product to create and connecting that product to potential customers.  For some new and beginning farmers, it can be a challenge to connect to the right market opportunities and to build a business that fits.

At USDA, we are working to make sure that there is access to markets at all levels – so that whether a new or beginning farmer wants to sell locally, regionally, nationally, or globally, they have access to tools that support their business and business development.

Last week, I visited with a number of agriculture groups in New Orleans to discuss the enormous potential of international trade for our industry. While there, I announced an enhanced partnership with our State and Regional Trade Groups (SRTG) and Cooperators that will cater to the need of next generation of agriculture and their growing businesses. At USDA, we believe that there is “no wrong door” for new and beginning farmers seeking the capacity to market abroad.

Specifically, the SRTGs and our Cooperators will be working earlier and more intensively with interested new and beginning farmers and ranchers. They will be helping to develop export capacity where appropriate and connecting appropriate new and beginning farm and ranch businesses with enhanced networking opportunities, including domestic trade shows and trips to meet buyers abroad.

We will also be connecting our field staffs with this information, so that all our Agencies working with new and beginning farmers on the business end of their operations can provide the best possible, one-stop customer service and connections to this exciting new business opportunity.

USDA is committed to assisting beginning farmers and ranchers with the exploration of overseas markets, where 95 percent of the world’s population lives, and which represents over 70 percent of global purchasing power.

As a sector, export earnings for American agriculture represent a major contribution to the incomes of beginning farmers and ranchers.  In fact, annual exports account on average for about 20 percent of agricultural production.  For example, exports account for over 70 percent of U.S. almond and cotton production, over 50 percent of rice output, and around 20 percent of pork, poultry, and apple production.

I am reminded of three recent success stories that show this potential in action:

  • Sister Sky—a small, family-owned Native American company in Washington State run by two sisters are exporting their skin care products from harvested native roots and natural botanicals after attending the Natural Products Expo West Show.
  • Sinner Brothers & Bresnahan—a family-owned sorghum and soybean company in North Dakota who participated in a FoodExport Midwest trade mission to Japan and South Korea resulting in $200,000 in exports.
  • Scott Farms, Inc – A sweet potato producer from North Carolina who participated in the Fruit Logistica trade show in Berlin, Germany exhibiting their sweet potato products and reported over $100,000 in export sales.

Exporting isn’t right for everyone; it is a complicated business model and requires dedicated time and resources.  But for some farmers, new or established, exporting can make a big difference and help diversify their revenue streams and bottom lines.

The first stop for new farmers and ranchers is “New to Exporting? Start Here.” This site links to the Foreign Agricultural Service, its partners, and a variety of resources available to get started.

And for other USDA support available for beginning farmers, visit www.usda.gov/newfarmers.