Expanding into foreign markets will be increasingly important to the continued growth of the U.S. farm economy, said several experts at Thursday’s agribusiness management conference in Fresno.
More than 300 people attended the 32nd annual event, which drew farmers, bankers, insurance company representatives and students.
The one-day gathering, organized by Fresno State’s Center for Agricultural Business, brought together experts to spotlight several critical topics in farming, including water, immigration and the economy.
Not all the news was bad, said Terry Barr, chief economist of CoBank.
Exports remain an important part of the farm economy, especially for California. In 2011, California’s agricultural exports rose 14 percent from the previous year to $16.7 billion.
California’s top five exported products were almonds, dairy products, wine, walnuts and rice. And the state’s top foreign markets include Canada, the European Union, China/Hong Kong, Japan and Mexico.
Barr said countries like China continue to be a prime destination for U.S. crops, especially higher-value ones like nuts. But he also cautioned that the rate of growth in some emerging markets, like Brazil, Russia and India, has tapered to a more normal pace.
“China is driving the global economy and what happens there will determine what happens to ag prices in the future,” Barr said.
Two proposed trade agreements involving numerous countries could particularly benefit California farmers, said Mechel Paggi, director of the Center for Agriculture Business. The Trans Pacific Partnership includes Japan, Australia and Vietnam, while the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership includes, among others, the European Union.