Exports, obesity prevention top president's agenda

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — In his Jan. 27 State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama made exports a key component of his proposed jobs recovery programs. Mr. Obama set a goal to double U.S. exports over the next five years, an increase that he said will support two million jobs in America.

“To help meet this goal, we’re launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security,” he said. “We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores.

“But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. And that’s why we’ll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia.”

Both the U.S. Wheat Associates and National Association of Wheat Growers applauded the president’s proposal and pushed Congress to finalize the pending U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement as a positive first step.

“Wheat growers from across the country were in Washington, D.C., this week encouraging members of Congress to support this agreement, which is the industry’s top trade priority and key to maintaining more than $90 million in wheat exports to Colombia every year,” the groups said. “The Colombia agreement and other pending trade agreements with South Korea and Panama will quickly bring more money home to farmers and small, rural businesses. It will also enhance America’s already strong agricultural exports, estimated at nearly $97 billion in fiscal 2009.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation echoed the sentiments of the wheat associations.

“Expanded trade opportunities are vital to America’s farmers and ranchers, and we welcome and support the president’s call to export more of our agricultural goods,” the A.F.B.F. said.

On Jan. 20, in a speech before the U.S. Conference of Mayors, First Lady Michelle Obama called on the nation’s mayors in attendance to join in developing programs to combat childhood obesity. The goal of the effort is to develop obesity prevention programs on a regional basis and promote those that are successful nationwide in an effort to get other communities to adopt the programs.

In the State of the Union address, Mr. Obama highlighted Mrs. Obama’s efforts and the Grocery Manufacturers Association voiced their support.

“We applaud President Obama for highlighting the important challenge before our nation of reducing obesity, especially childhood obesity,” said Pamela G. Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the G.M.A. “We welcome his and the First Lady’s leadership on this critical issue. Doing our part to help win this critical battle continues to be a top priority for the food and beverage industry, and we are already taking significant steps to create and encourage healthier food choices.” 

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