WASHINGTON – In mid-November, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plans to visit Vietnam and China to help strengthen bilateral trade relations and support the American brand throughout the Asia Pacific region. As a result, Vilsack will become the first sitting American Secretary of Agriculture to visit Vietnam.

Vilsack highlighted the strong performance of the US farm economy, pointing to record exports, a record trade surplus, near-record farm income, and low farm debt as signs that America's farm sector is making major contributions to the nation's overall economy, in comments he made at the National Journal's Healthy Food, Healthy Planet Policy Summit in Washington, DC.

"Thanks to the productivity of America's farmers, ranchers and producers, our trading partners in the Asia Pacific region recognize the US as a reliable supplier of the highest-quality food and agricultural products," Vilsack said. "Under the Obama Administration, USDA has continued to expand markets for American goods abroad, worked aggressively to break down trade barriers to trade and assisted US businesses with the resources needed to reach consumers around the world. In terms of exports, we are experiencing the best years in America's history. Partnerships with growing markets like those in China and Vietnam are integral to the strength of the US economy in the decades ahead."

This year, China moved past Mexico and Canada as America’s No. 1 market for US agricultural goods. Vietnam is one of the world's fastest-growing economies and an important market for US agricultural products, now valued at $1.3 billion. In the past decade, Vietnam jumped from the fiftieth to the fifteenth position as a market for US farm exports.

Agricultural exports help support more than 1 million American jobs, VIlsack said. This year and next, US agricultural exports are on track to reach record highs of $137 billion, leading to a trade surplus of more than $42 billion, eight times greater than five years ago.

Last week, President Obama signed new trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. When implemented, these three agreements will increase farm exports by an additional $2.3 billion – supporting nearly 20,000 American jobs – by eliminating tariffs, removing barriers to trade and leveling the playing field for US producers.

While in Vietnam, Vilsack plans to meet with Vietnamese officials, talk with agricultural students, and thank US food and agricultural businesses for bolstering the US economy. Vilsack will travel to China as part of the Obama Administration's delegation attending meetings for the 22nd Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT).