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Russia ban won’t hurt Oregon growers

By Colton Totland, Statesman Journal

Oregon will largely avoid repercussions of the one-year agriculture embargo imposed by Russia on Wednesday, despite being an important exporter of such goods in several countries across the world.

While the ban announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin ends roughly $1.6 billion in trade with the U.S., it affects just 1 percent of all American agriculture exports, and an even smaller percentage of exports from Oregon.

What’s more, the ban comes at a time of record agricultural exports for producers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A May report forecasts the U.S. — already the world’s largest provider of farm-related products — as exporting $149.5 billion in goods by the end of the fiscal year, a 6 percent increase over 2013.

The product most restricted by the embargo — poultry, which amounted to $300 million of the trade with Russia last year, according to the USDA — don’t come from Oregon. Agricultural producers in the state sent just $4.5 million in products to Russia in 2013, mostly pears, seeds and beef.

“Bottom line: Russia is not a very big customer of Oregon ag products at this time,” said Bruce Pokarney of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

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Oregon is a prominent trade partner in other parts of the world, however. The state exported $2.6 billion in goods in 2012, according to Business Oregon, about one-third of its overall production. Many of the state’s key trade partners, such as Japan, South Korea and nations in the South Pacific, rely on Oregon for their food production needs.

“There are so many markets around the world that are highly developed and yet resource poor,” said Allan Christian, a senior trade specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce. Stationed in Portland, Christian works with Oregon agriculture businesses looking to export to international markets.

“These nations are reliant on imports for agricultural products to feed the population. They need everything from raw commodities to processed foods and beverages,” he said.

Several of those nations are long-standing trade partners of Oregon, Christian said, particularly Japan.

“Japan has been a well-developed business partner of Oregon for a very long time. You’re seeing the result of relationships that have developed over decades,” he said.

When it comes to the trade with Russia, Christian said it hardly registers.

“Undoubtedly, we’re exporting some there. But I’m just not aware of it,” he said.

For Christian, the bigger concern for Oregon trade is technology exports to Russia, namely processor giant Intel and medical equipment companies such as A-dec. He said while it wouldn’t be disastrous for Oregon manufacturers, an embargo on these goods by Russia could begin to impact the Oregon economy.

“Russia is not a crucial trade partner for Oregon in any area, but still — if they do broaden the embargo — that could begin to affect Oregon more seriously,” Christian said.

The original article published in The Register Guard on 8/8/14 can be found here.