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May 15, 2012   Email to Friend 

Melissa Martin
(334) 612-5448
May 15, 2012

Alabama Farmers Federation Cotton, Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grains Divisions Director Buddy Adamson, left, discusses Alabama's trade options with Auburn University Agronomy & Soils Department Head Joe Touchton, center, and Federation Bee & Honey, Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod and Horticulture Divisions Director Mac Higginbotham during the May 15 "Trading with the World" seminar in Birmingham.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 15 -- More than 75 farmers, agribusiness owners and agricultural leaders received information on global trade Tuesday at the Birmingham Marriott during a free seminar co-sponsored by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA). 

The seminar, "Trading with the World — Exporting Alabama Agriculture," offered attendees tips and techniques for distributing their products worldwide. 

Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture John McMillan touted the seminar's benefits during the welcoming address, including the ability to network with others in the industry.

"The more you can talk about exporting, the more opportunities you'll have to develop contacts overseas," said McMillan. "It also opens the doors for more domestic sales opportunities. I hope everyone here can take away some information that will help put Alabama's products in the spotlight... domestically and internationally."

Following McMillan's opening remarks, the seminar featured speakers from across the state including Maria Mendez, Latin American trade director with the Alabama State Port Authority; Troy Rosamond, SUSTA financial director; Brian Davis, director of the Alabama International Trade Center (AITC); Greg Canfield, director of the Alabama Department of Commerce; and Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, Deputy Pro Tem of the Alabama Senate.

According to Mendez, Mobile is an asset to Alabama's marketplace, serving as an 'economic engine' to boost the state's export opportunities.

"Because of its inland waterway system, the Mobile port provides an excellent intermodal system for trading with other ports, specifically Panama and Cuba," said Mendez. "We export a fair amount of products to Cuba already, but the Panama Canal Expansion Program — a $5.25 billion project that should be completed in 2014 — will more than double the amount of goods we trade with Panama."

Focusing his presentation on international trade techniques, Rosamond emphasized the resources available to business leaders who are looking to expand their customer base. 

"SUSTA is a great resource that many businesses don't utilize," said Rosamond. "Ultimately, the export success comes down to the company's efforts, but we want to provide you with as many resources as possible to help you succeed. Our website has several resources for anyone looking to expand their trade options, including the ability for several small businesses to be reimbursed for their international trade efforts." 

Building on Rosamond's point of resource availability, Davis encouraged attendees to begin making connections overseas for trade opportunities, noting the availability of AITC resources to manufacturers and other state industry sectors that have export potential.

"Now is a great opportunity to try to expand markets, both foreign and domestically," said Davis. "International trade is growing in the world, in the United States and in Alabama, and there's a growing need for Alabama's products across the globe. The AITC, like other alliances here today, want to help your business succeed because when Alabama's exports increase, we all benefit."

Though tariffs and regulations are growing concerns for agribusinesses involved with international trade, Sen. Waggoner reminded attendees that domestic competition also impacts Alabama's export success. 

"We have real competition from other states in the Southeast, specifically Mississippi and the Carolinas," said Waggoner. "Bottom line, we have got to improve our incentives package to compete in this global market. We ought to be exporting everything from Mobile and take advantage of the state docks."

Canfield echoed his remarks, adding that the state Department of Commerce has pledged to help move Alabama forward.

"Alabama is doing well with trade to date, but there's plenty of room to improve," said Canfield. "We need to find more ways to capitalize on trade and expand our marketplace."

Following a break for lunch, attendees listened as a panel discussed further benefits and concerns of international exports. Panel members included morning speaker Brian Davis; Kevin Smith, director of Export Services for the U.S. Meat Export Federation; Todd Jones, Trade Development director with the Alabama State Port Authority; and Kirk Atkinson with Bremen Invest.

Alabama Farmers Federation Cotton, Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grains Divisions Director Buddy Adamson said the May 15 seminar provided attendees with answers that should encourage producers to look outside the state line when marketing their products. 

"For a lot of the state's farmers and agribusinesses, exporting products outside the country is marked with uncertainty," Adamson said. "They're concerned about what taxes they would have to pay and are unsure what regulations and obstacles they may face. This seminar provided some great answers to those questions, and I hope our state continues to increase its exports."  

To access a list of resources presented during the seminar, visit susta.org or aitc.ua.edu.

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