The USDA is planning on four more in-person trade missions around the globe this year, including trips to the UK and Kenya, nations that the Trump administration opened up negotiations with for free trade agreements.

The Biden administration is not announcing that those negotiations will resume, but it is targeting them to try to open up agricultural trade by marketing U.S. goods.

Also on the schedule of trade missions this year are Spain and the Philippines, a country that that began importing a lot more U.S. pork last year after it temporarily raised its quota by more than 400% to 254,000 metric tons and cut its tariff in half to 15%.

The post-pandemic resumption of in-person trade missions — USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Daniel Whitley led the first in February to Dubai — is just one part of a Biden administration effort to encourage the U.S. ag sector to lessen its reliance on exports to China and diversify its foreign markets, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a trip this week to New Orleans.

Alluding to the trade war with China during the Trump administration when the U.S. farmers essentially lost the Chinese market until the “phase one” deal was struck, Vilsack repeatedly stressed the need to broaden the scope of foreign buyers.

Vilsack, standing at a New Orleans Cargill terminal Thursday where one ship was being loaded with 75,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to China and another was taking on 60,000 tons of corn for delivery to Japan, stressed the need for diversification in foreign markets and promised USDA will be expanding on that message in increasing marketing activities.

“We need to look for new and better markets and that could be in Southeast Asia or Africa or Latin America,” Vilsack told reporters.

That may not be easy as China — the largest foreign market for U.S. ag — continues to import record amounts from the U.S.

The latest USDA trade data shows that during the week of Feb. 25-March 3 Chinese importers contracted to buy about 1.1 million tons of U.S. soybeans for delivery in the current 2021-22 marketing year. That was about half of the total week’s sales. And China was also again the largest destination for shipments. The U.S. shipped out 304,600 tons of soybeans to China from Feb. 25-March 3.

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