By Stephen Singer

Daily Journal

Federal agriculture officials came to Tupelo Monday as part of a 46-state swing to promote farm exports and urge businesses to help boost Mississippi’s share of overseas sales.

“We feel very bullish on the export market,” James A. Truran, agricultural counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia, told about 50 business representatives at the Community Development Foundation.

Agricultural sales to overseas markets are growing twice as fast as domestic sales, he said.

The value of U.S. agricultural exports is projected to total $60 billion this year, said Bill Wheeler, director of the Southeast Area Office of the Farm Service Agency in Washington.

Mississippi’s share is $874 million, or about 1.5 percent, said Norris Faust, executive director of the Mississippi Farm Service Agency in Jackson. “That goes into our pockets,” he said.

Agricultural exports have created 1 million jobs, Truran said. About 60 percent of these jobs are “off the farm” in trade, transportation, manufacturing and financial and other services, he said.

Export growth is driven by rising incomes and what Truran called a booming world economy since the early 1990s. “When people make more money, they eat more and eat better,” he said.

He also credited treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade for easing trade restrictions.

The federal agency is making the national push as farm exports change, Truran said after the meeting. Exports of processed, or value-added, commodities are increasing, Truran said.

He characterized the development as positive, but said officials face a “new challenge” to continue increasing exports of bulk commodities such as unprocessed grains and oil seeds.

Separately, officials of the Tennessee Valley Authority told members of the CDF board of directors and business representatives that construction contracts for the customer service center between McCullough Boulevard and U.S. Highway 78 are expected to be awarded in early September.

Construction could be completed within a year, said project manager Jim Watson.

The 28,000-square-foot building is to replace the agency’s two sites on Gloster Street and Crossover Road.

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