Students meeting with embassy representatives
Students meeting with embassy representatives
Students gather for group photo
Students gather for group photo

The 9th Annual Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade was held March 6-7, 2017 at the Richmond Marriott Hotel.  Speaking about the conference, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced it as the Commonwealth’s marquee event highlighting the vital role of agriculture and forestry exports in a new Virginia economy. The conference brings together producers, agribusinesses, entrepreneurs, exporters, foreign ambassadors and government ministers, land-grant university leadership, state and federal government officials, and others to discuss challenges and opportunities for global agricultural trade. This year’s conference, he noted, provides an opportunity for discussion, focusing on a broad range of topics relevant to the current national conversation about the global economy. Over 250 participants attended the conference.

Student participation has always been a vital aspect of the agricultural trade conferences. This year, ISCE teamed up with Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AAEC) and its Center for Agricultural Trade (CAT) to enhance student participation. Nearly 25 undergraduates enrolled in two spring semester courses (AAEC 4984, Strategic Management and Negotiations and AAEC 3024, Monetary and Global Issues) were able to attend, along with 5 AAEC graduate students. Highlighted private-sector speakers (see Agenda) included Mr. Ken Sullivan, CEO of Smtihfield Foods, and Dr. J. B. Penn, Chief Economist of John Deere. Panels addressed Mexican, Canadian and U.S. perspectives on current issues for agriculture within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pacific region trade issues, and forestry trade and security of agricultural intellectual property rights among other topics.

Participation in the conference provided experiential learning about current agricultural trade issues, debate and negotiations under the administration of newly-elected President Donald Trump in multiple ways. First, there was the opportunities to hear from and ask questions to the speakers in the conference sessions. This was enhanced by informal one-to-one discussions during breaks and meals. A highlight for students was an opportunity to meet with the Agriculture Counsellors from the embassies of West Germany, Australia and Ireland. The participants expressed particular enthusiasm about this separate meeting, described by one as “worth as much as the whole rest of the conference.” The students participated in a wrap up discussion of what they had learned with professors Jason Grant, CAT Director, and David Orden, ISCE’s GII Director, to fix ideas while they were fresh, particularly about how to follow the national debates on trade policy that will ensue during the coming year. The participating students will also make reports to classmates in their two courses. Plans are being made to repeat and expand this policy experiential learning experience at the 10th agricultural trade conference next year.