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Grant Herfindahl and Colleen Landkamer: Opening new markets for American agriculture

If you're looking for a growth industry, check out Minnesota's food and agricultural exports: The number of jobs supported by agricultural exports has been trending upward since the 1990s. More than one million American jobs are supported by agricultural exports, including 55,300 jobs in Minnesota. That's a substantial part of the estimated 11.5 million jobs supported by exports all across the country. Agricultural exports help support rural communities across the country, with each dollar of exports stimulating another $1.27 in business activity. Our state's agricultural exports support jobs in transportation, processing, packaging and many more areas; roughly 80 percent of these jobs are in non-farm sectors. So while the benefits of trade for Minnesota's rural farmers and ranchers are clear, there are also positive impacts rippling throughout the entire job market stimulating our national economy.

Here in Minnesota, we're accustomed to producing the best agricultural goods. Our producers keep Americans fed and clothed while contributing to the food security for nations across the globe. Their hard work is a symbol of where we come from, a reflection of our shared values, and an economic driver for our state's economy.

For the U.S. economy as a whole, agricultural exports represent a consistent success story through good times and challenges. Agricultural exports have grown much faster over the past decade than even manufacturing exports. In fact, over the past seven years, U.S. farmers and ranchers are responsible for exporting $1 trillion in food and agricultural goods to countries around the world. At USDA, we're working aggressively to maintain this historic momentum by expanding foreign markets to help drive demand for American-grown goods. We're leading more trade missions and generating more sales as a result than ever before. We have saved U.S. businesses billions of dollars by removing unfair barriers to trade. In 2015 alone, USDA resolved more than 150 trade-related issues involving U.S. agricultural exports valued at $2.4 billion. And we've worked to expand trade relations with many of the world's fastest-growing nations.

More simply, as the rest of the world continues to become more developed and populations grow, so does the demand for American agricultural exports.

That is why the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is so important to Minnesota. The TPP is a 21st century trade agreement that helps to level the playing field for American businesses while ensuring the highest labor and environmental standards. U.S. trade with the 11 TPP countries accounted for 42 percent of U.S. agricultural exports in 2014, contributing $63 billion to the U.S. economy. Easier access to these markets with fewer taxes on our goods allows for even the smallest-scale producers to expand their reach.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, ratifying the TPP will boost annual net farm income in the United States by $4.4 billion. The TPP also removes 3,900 taxes on U.S. agricultural goods, such as soybeans, corn, or pork grown right here. Failure by Congress to pass the agreement, however, costs the U.S. economy a permanent loss of $94 billion each year.

With TPP, local products are able to compete on a more level playing field, reaching high-demand markets both at home and abroad. And, most important, TPP provides the United States an opportunity to help write the global rules on trade rather than nations like China. While China moves forward with its own trade deals that don't reflect our interests and our values, TPP promises to make a lasting contribution to the American economy by giving more Americans a fair shot, more higher-paying jobs, and households with paychecks that go further.

Strong trade deals like TPP that meet our standards, reduce taxes and level the playing field for our businesses can power Minnesota's economy for decades to come.

Grant Herfindahl is the state executive director of the Minnesota Farm Service Agency. Colleen Landkamer is the state director of Minnesota Rural Development.

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