ST. LOUIS – On March 28, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack encouraged agriculture leaders from Missouri to focus on trade opportunities outside US borders, as 95% of consumers live in foreign countries. He mentioned the US-Korea Free-Trade Agreement, which needs congressional ratification, as one way to sustain the growth of the US agriculture sector.

“Farm exports alone will support more than one million jobs in America this year,” Vilsack said. “And every dollar in exports generates another $1.31 in economic activity. Congress can help US farmers and ranchers sustain their record growth by passing smart trade deals like the US-Korea Free-Trade Agreement, which will increase exports and support job creation here at home."

Economic output is estimated to grow more under the US-Korea FTA than from the US’ last nine free-trade agreements combined, Vilsack said. Such growth would add jobs to agriculture-focused areas such as the ports and infrastructure along the Mississippi River, from Minneapolis to New Orleans, Vilsack said.

The US-Korea Free-Trade Agreement would eliminate tariffs on a variety of American goods – including agricultural products such as beef, soybeans and feed grains– while adding tens of thousands of jobs to the US economy.

In fiscal year 2011 (Oct. 1, 2010 – Sept. 30, 2011), US farm goods exports are projected to surpass previous records by $20 billion. The agricultural trade balance – a balance of US exports versus foreign imports – is also projected to set a record surplus of $47.5 billion in 2011. Vilsack said every $1 billion in farm exports supports roughly 8,400 jobs in the US.