The USDA is heading a trade mission to promote U.S. farm goods in a couple of unlikely locations: Ukraine and Romania.
The Eastern European countries rank 86th and 82nd, respectively, as destinations for exports of agricultural and related products from the U.S.
Last year, the U.S. shipped $75 million of farm goods to Ukraine and $81 million to Romania — collectively less than 1 percent of the amount purchased by Canada, the top U.S. trade partner.
However, the two nations have gained in geopolitical importance due to tensions with nearby Russia.
While the military conflict in Ukraine has been highly prominent, Romania has also drawn the ire of Russia over a U.S. missile defense system within its borders.
The trade delegation, scheduled for June 13-17, is led by USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse and joined by several representatives of state governments, companies and organizations, including Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Though Oregon doesn’t currently ship many farm goods to Ukraine or Romania, Coba said the trade mission is an opportunity to explore those markets and show U.S. support for the two nations in light of their problems with Russia.
The trade mission will include meetings with government officials from the host countries and U.S. embassies, as well as tours of facilities owned by multinational agribusiness firms ADM and Bunge.
Coba said she hopes to learn about the state of each country’s middle class, which represents a potential market for Oregon’s high-value farm products.
The value of U.S. farm exports to Ukraine has plummeted from its most recent high of $321 million in 2013 to last year’s level of $75 million, according to USDA data.
Fish products and planting seeds are among the major U.S. commodities shipped to Ukraine, though they’ve decreased along with total exports in recent years.
Oregon would benefit from the demand for these products, so it will be useful to learn whether the drop-off was caused by tariffs, political turbulence or other barriers, Coba said.
Pork, poultry and eggs have also been among the top farm exports to Ukraine.
Exports to Romania have fluctuated widely over the past decade, between $47 million and $96 million, with shipments increasing nearly 60 percent over the prior year to $81 million in 2015.
Soybeans, tobacco, planting seeds and distilled spirits are among the most prominent ag-related exports to that country.
The U.S. had a trade deficit in agricultural goods with both countries in 2015, importing about $158 million from Ukraine and $154 million from Romania.