In mid-June, Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., was elected president of the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA) at the annual meeting of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA) in Greensboro, North Carolina.
SUSTA is a non-profit agricultural export trade development association comprised of the departments of agriculture of 15 southern states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. SUSTA works with individual state agricultural agencies like the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to provide resources to help small business with international trade.
“We’re thrilled to have Commissioner Strain as our new president,” said Jerry Hingle, SUSTA Executive Director. “His vision and leadership is greatly needed at a time when we need to help more companies in our industry become successful exporters while maintaining federal funding for these important programs.”
Strain said he will use the position to vigorously promote Louisiana and the other southern states’ agricultural outputs. “Agriculture is one of the few industry sectors of the U.S. economy that has a positive balance of trade. At $38 billion so far in 2011, food and agricultural exports are up 30 percent and we’re forecasting that this year’s exports will be the highest ever.”
Strain said it is critical that the nation’s agricultural sector fully support the Realize America’s Maritime Promise (RAMP) bill, sponsored by Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette.
“We need to make sure that the American maritime transportation infrastructure is sufficiently maintained to ship our agricultural goods,” Strain said. “Passage of the RAMP measure will ensure that taxes on imported cargo collected by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund will be spent entirely on maintenance of America’s harbors and waterways, including dredging the lower Mississippi River shipping channel to a depth draft of 45 feet.”
Strain said that Boustany’s proposal is attracting widespread support in Congress and now has more than 100 co-sponsors.
Strain said SUSTA assists hundreds of companies develop export markets for U.S. food and agricultural products each year. In 2010, companies participating in trade shows, trade missions and other events sponsored by SUSTA exported more than $50 million in food and agricultural products and expect another $78 million sales over the coming year.
“SUSTA’s programs are highly effective, yielding $38 in exports for every dollar that it invests in helping companies export,” Strain said.
SUSTA represents a cross section of industry and business and more than 133 United States companies are participating in SUSTA programs this year.
“SUSTA is a vital, growing organization, with 21 new companies this year and 17 of those are exporting to international markets for the first time and we hope to see that number grow” Strain said. “SUSTA also helped open up 45 new markets and countries for American goods.”