(Jamie) Were back! Let’s join Kyle and Phil as they discuss the services FAS is responsible for.
(Kyle) Hi this is Kyle Bauer visiting with Philip Karsting, with Foreign Agricultural Services. Philip, I’m going to let you tell me what Foreign Agricultural Services does for USDA? (Philip) Well, I’m really proud to lead the FAS in the Obama Administration. We are the principle foreign affairs agency of USDA. We have ag attaches in about 97 countries around the globe where we work to create better trade policy, help negotiate trade agreements. We help to promote U.S. agricultural exports and in some cases we work on scientific and capacity building exchanges with other countries who will become future customers for American agriculture. (Kyle) So it would appear to me a lot of that might be in the State Department, but you’re in the Agricultural Department, not the State Department. (Philip) We are. This goes back many, many years. The FAS first began, the USDA began a foreign ag service probably 60-70 years ago and we really wanted to bring in the expertise of American agriculture. We drew a lot on our Land Grant University system and built up a core of foreign service, as well as civil servants in Washington. And we’ve got local engaged staff overseas. That’s the Japanese that work for us in Tokyo, or the Brazilians that work for us in Sao Paulo and Rio. And those folks are also an important part of our comprehensive effort to make sure that American agriculture is treated fairly overseas and that we help facilitate trade agreements and trade environments that give our farmers a fair chance to compete. And they do compete very well. We’ve had six record years of agricultural exports. Ag exports account for about 20 percent of American farm income. They’re important, I think, to all 52 million of the people who live in rural America. Every other row of soybeans grown in this country goes overseas. One day of every week worth of dairy production goes overseas. So, American agriculture is vibrant and strong and a big part of that is our international relations. (Kyle) There’s a lot of countries around the world. How many of them do you have representation and or personnel in? (Philip) Well it varies by place. In China, our largest customer, we’ve got multiple offices and multiple people there. In some of the countries we handle more than one country out of one office. So, we have about 97 offices. I think we cover 167 countries around the globe. Some of those are focused on trade policy. Some of those are more developmental in counties, in developing countries where there will be a lot more emerging middle class customers in the next several decades. So, it kind of varies region by region, but we think that we’ve got a footprint that is right for American agriculture. And our farmers are doing some great things. (Kyle) Are the offices for your staff in the embassy’s themselves? (Philip) They are, most of them are in the embassies. We have two kinds of offices overseas. Our Office of Agriculture Affairs work directly, they’re part of each ambassadors country team. So, they are there everyday working with economic officers, and political officers, making sure that America’s representation overseas is comprehensive and coordinated. We also have Agricultural Trade Offices overseas. They focus a little more on the commercial aspects. They work a lot with our cooperators. And that’s a really important part of what we do. A lot of our ag promotion work overseas is done through a public/private joint venture with our cooperators. And Congress and the Federal government has set aside a certain amount of money that we use for ag promotion overseas. The cooperators come in with private sector money and each year they come up with a strategy on how they’re going to move the needle to improve acceptance, demand for U.S. agricultural products. (Kyle) We’re visiting with Philip Karsting, he’s the Director for Foreign Agricultural Services. This is Kyle Bauer reporting from Kansas City. Back to you Jamie.
(Jamie) Thanks, Kyle. OK, it’s time to grab a cup of coffee, but don’t go far away – next up is this week’s Kansas Soybean Update.