When thinking about the goods or services that Colorado exports to other countries, agricultural products may not be the first thing that crosses your mind. Think again.
Agricultural exports have become increasingly important to our state's economy, with high-quality, locally grown products sold from our farmers and ranchers to worldwide markets that are rich with opportunity. These exports are growing rapidly, doubling since 2009 to $2.1 billion.
I am excited about the continued growth of Colorado's agricultural exports to international markets, which contributes to Colorado's economic vitality and enhances opportunity for all Coloradans.
From Canada to Mexico, to Japan and China, and all the way to Korea and Russia, products from Colorado's farms and ranches are finding their way to these and other international destinations. Top agricultural exports include beef, hides, dairy, dry beans and wheat.
Overall, our biggest trading partners continue to be our neighbors to the north and south, Canada and Mexico, where the largest shares of Colorado agricultural products go. But we've seen growth on the global level. In fact, exports to Japan have increased 52 percent to $48.5 million in the first eight months of 2012, part of the $120 million increase in Colorado's agricultural exports in the first eight months of 2012.
As for Colorado's total exports to our key international markets, agricultural exports often contribute a major share. For example, agricultural exports accounted for 36 percent of Colorado's total exports to Mexico, while accounting for 46 percent of our state's total exports to China.
Access to open markets is critical to reaching foreign customers. It is important that our country's trade representatives continue to fight for greater access to global markets for our agricultural products.
Our most recent trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea are examples of the U.S. working to tear down trade barriers that block or reduce exports and improve access to customers in international markets.
Without question, Colorado's agricultural exports will continue to grow as we open and expand global markets and create new and exciting opportunities for our valued and quality products.
Gov. John Hickenlooper has been a strong advocate for Colorado agricultural products, encouraging buyers in international markets to become more familiar with our products. I joined the governor on a trade mission to Mexico earlier this year, where we met with current and potential buyers of Colorado products. One of the positive outcomes of this mission is that Mexico is expected to ease barriers allowing greater access for fresh potatoes. This would be an especially important gain for San Luis Valley potato producers. Our meetings could also increase exports of beef and wheat to Mexico.
Agriculture has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of Colorado's economic well-being. As more and more of our agricultural products find consumers across the globe, Colorado agriculture will boost our state's economic growth and help create jobs. And that is not only good for agriculture - it is good for all Coloradans.
John T. Salazar is the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture. He is a former congressman and remains an active farmer in the San Luis Valley.