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USDA Officials Meet With Businesses to Talk Alaskan Exports

US Department of Agriculture

US Department of Agriculture officials met in Anchorage with Alaskan businesses Tuesday to discuss exporting of products.

The USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service runs programs designed to build new markets for US exporters.  FAS associate administrator Suzanne Palmieri and deputy administrator for trade programs Christian Foster were the representatives that met in Anchorage.  They spoke with representative of Alaskan business sectors interested in exporting products such as fish and nursery products to countries around the world.

USDA Alaska Farm Service Agency Executive Director Danny Consenstein says the USDA’s role in Alaska is important for the state.

“It’s such an important role in so many different ways, and it’s not just limited to farms. The farm bill that was passed by congress has so many programs that benefit Alaska from housing to energy to food, broadband, electricity. And that’s just another example of how USDA can support Alaska and can support Alaska businesses related to export.”

Consenstein says the USDA is interested in every aspect of Alaskan exportation.  A relatively recent phenomenon in the state is peony farming, with farms blooming all over Alaska. 

“They are shipping Alaska peonies to countries all over the world now. And the programs at the USDA can help that industry. There are other industries that are just getting ready to do more exports from Alaska because of our strategic location and these USDA programs are going to be available to help them with their marketing and trade and their export opportunities.”

However, it’s impossible to ignore one of Alaska’s biggest exports.  Consenstein says the USDA is actually helping the Alaska seafood market.

“And example of one of the programs that the USDA has in supporting Alaska with for many years is the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute which helps market Alaska seafood to other countries. USDA’s market assistance program has provided over $20 million in the past five years to support ASMI to work in Alaska seafood.”

In 2011, Alaska seafood industry employed over 63,000 workers directly. In the same year, 5.35 billion pounds of fish and shellfish, worth over $3 billion, were harvested for export in Alaska waters.  About two-thirds of Alaska seafood is exported abroad, accounting for 58 percent of all US seafood exports.  High numbers like that, Consenstein says, is why the USDA wants to listen to Alaska businesses and learn how the state can partner with them.