USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is in Europe this week meeting with agricultural trade officials and stakeholders to expand U.S. agricultural trade.

The discussions will focus on the importance of agriculture’s role in the U.S.-European Union (EU) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), and the benefits the trade agreement could have on the U.S. and European economies.

The Secretary's trip will visit leaders in Brussels, Luxembourg City, Paris, and Dublin.

“The EU is the world’s largest importer of (U.S.) food and agricultural products,” Vilsack said.

“But despite the continued growth of this market, U.S. market share is shrinking because U.S. producers and exporters continue to face numerous trade barriers,” the Secretary said. “The negotiation of the T-TIP offers a major opportunity to address these barriers and expand market access for U.S. farmers and ranchers.”

According to USDA, nearly one-third of U.S. economic growth has been due to exports since 2009. Since then, the U.S. has set record agricultural exports which are critical to creating jobs in rural America and helping the U.S. economy to recover from the recession.

In the last fiscal year, U.S. agricultural exports reached a record $140.9 billion and supported nearly one million jobs.

Over the last five years, U.S. agricultural exports have set a new record annually - totaling $619 billion. U.S. farm exports are projected to reach a new record of $149.5 billion in fiscal year 2014.

“The agricultural sectors in both the U.S. and the EU stand to benefit from a strong T-TIP agreement,” Vilsack said. “Reducing barriers to trade in the agreement will be especially beneficial to the small and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of our respective economies.”

In Luxembourg City, Vilsack will meet with agriculture ministers from the 28 EU member states. He will emphasize the importance of the agriculture leaders’ involvement in T-TIP negotiations, and will urge them to share expertise with trade negotiators to develop an ambitious T-TIP agriculture package that creates jobs and strengthens rural economies.

In Paris, Sec. Vilsack will address French food and agricultural stakeholders. In Ireland, he will meet with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and tour Irish beef and dairy farms.