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Governor: Va. trade infrastructure can withstand disruptions

Governor: Va. trade infrastructure can withstand disruptions

RICHMOND—Current global conditions are concerning, but Gov. Ralph Northam said Virginia has a substantial infrastructure in place “that we can lean on” for agriculture, forestry and related trade.

Northam spoke March 10 at the 12th Annual Virginia Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade, which drew more than 200 participants. He said the commonwealth’s agricultural and forestry exports in 2019 were valued at more than $2.7 billion. Top export products were soybeans, pork, tobacco, wood products and soybean meal. The state’s top trading partners were China, Canada, Switzerland, Taiwan and Mexico.

Northam acknowledged that recent trade disputes have created interruptions in exports, and that coronavirus concerns have had an impact on the global economy. “These are very real things that we collectively have to navigate.”

He also cited ongoing efforts “to ensure that Virginia is a top trading partner,” including enhancements to the state’s port system that will accommodate the largest of cargo ships currently in use.

In the near term, Northam encouraged conference participants engaged in exporting goods “to consider how your business can be flexible and adaptable.”

Once the coronavirus crisis passes, he said, “and it will,” Virginia will be prepared to “pick back up where we left off. … We’re not turning away from that. We’re going to maintain those trade relationships.”

He cited plans already in place to expand Virginia’s export output by 25% over the next 15 years. Because many exports originate in rural parts of the state, the effort “should have a big impact on our rural areas, helping them to become more resilient.”

Northam is a pediatric neurologist and a former Army doctor. In specific reference to coronavirus news, he assured conference participants that state officials are prepared to address outbreaks.

“We are in control, and my goal … is that we keep all Virginians safe and that we provide accurate and up-to-date information.”

Media: Contact Pam Wiley, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1128.