Over the past four years, the Obama administration has taken on a special commitment to growing our nation's agricultural exports. Fiscal years 2009-2012 represent the strongest four years in history, with U.S. agricultural product exports exceeding $478 billion during this time. We're on track to set another record in 2013.
This week brought particularly good news for America's beef producers.
On Monday, we announced with the government of Japan, which represents our fourth-largest agricultural export market, an agreement to significantly expand access for U.S. beef.
Under the terms of the agreement, which went into effect Friday, Japan will now permit the import of beef from cattle less than 30 months of age. Previously, Japan limited imports to beef from cattle 20 months or younger.
All told, we expect this deal to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue for the U.S. economy in the coming years, much of which will directly impact the U.S. beef industry. This is a major win for ranching states such as Oklahoma, where cattle and calves bring your state economy billions of dollars annually.
The agreement with Japan is one in a series of steps the administration has taken to open new markets for a variety of U.S. food and agricultural products, ensuring that agriculture continues to play a leading role in helping to achieve the president's goal to double exports by the end of 2014.
Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has acted to remove hundreds of barriers to trade for American companies and is providing businesses with the resources they need to reach new markets. In the past year alone, USDA has resolved export issues that freed up billions of dollars in U.S. agricultural and forestry exports and protected thousands of American jobs in the process. Our work to expand beef access to the United Arab Emirates and El Salvador, and to help speed cattle shipments abroad, lends additional support to Oklahoma ranchers.
USDA also has helped conduct more than 110 trade shows around the world for U.S. businesses — most of them small or medium sized. The trade shows helped more than 1,000 U.S. companies generate nearly $500 million in on-site sales.
Ultimately, increasing American exports helps us to lay the groundwork for a stronger national economy. Agricultural exports not only support more than 1 million jobs right here at home, but since 2009, agricultural exports have also helped fuel growth in net farm income from just $85 billion in 2008 to $114 billion last year.
Today we have a historic opportunity to build on our success and enhance the tremendous benefits for rural America that come with increased agricultural trade. And as consumers around the world demand high-quality, American-grown products, USDA staff will be positioned around the world, monitoring more than 160 markets to ensure a level playing field for U.S. businesses and products.
Vilsack is U.S. secretary of agriculture.