A Cincinnati barge company was the backdrop for an announcement of sweeping changes to the agricultural industry. In front of an Ohio River barge filled with soybeans for likely shipment to southeast Asia, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue detailed the department's overhaul including the creation of an Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.
Under the plan, announced Thursday at Consolidated Grain and Barge in Cincinnati, the Foreign Agricultural Service would focus entirely on marketing U.S. agricultural products.
He says, "I want someone who gets up every day where they can say where can I go to sell American farm products around the world and help us grow that market."
That's something that resonates with Kevin Adams, president of the grain company where the news conference was held. He wants greater access to those foreign markets. "It's a matter of making sure those avenues for trade are open an uninhibited."
Perdue says agricultural trade is critical for the U.S. farm sector and the American economy as a whole. A news release says agricultural and food exports account for 20 percent of the value of production and every dollar of those exports creates another $1.27 in business activity.
Other changes to the Agriculture Department include a new undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation. The position for undersecretary for Rural Development is being eliminated. Senator Sherrod Brown says that's too bad because Ohio counts on rural development for "everything from combating opioids, to building hospitals, to securing loans for local businesses to grow and create jobs."