In 2009 when Tim Montz first traveled to Shanghai, China, representing the Texas pecan industry, Montz had to explain what pecans were. Two years later, promoting pecans to China and other countries is “business as usual” for the father-and-son team of Tim and Jake Montz of the Montz Pecan Company.

“Just a couple years ago, exporting pecans to China was something we heard about but thought it was something of a niche for larger growers,” said Jake Montz. “Boy, were we wrong. Now China is driving the market. We have exported pecans to China for the last two years and plan on continuing in the future.”

The United States produces more than 80 percent of the world’s pecans, and the overseas market for U.S. pecans is growing while growers like the Montz family reap the benefits. In 2010, the United States exportedmore than 47,000 metric tons of pecans. U.S. pecan exports reached more than 50,000 metric tons in just the first 11 months of 2011. Hong Kong, Mexico and the European Union are the three largest export markets, representing more than 70 percent of the overall world market for U.S. pecans.

Part of this growth is due to USDA’s strong farm safety net, or programs that support American producers and businesses. Pecan producers benefit from USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grants and research grants, crop insurance, and marketing programs supported by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The Montz Pecan Company is a member of the newly formed National Pecan Growers Council (NPGC), a new participant in USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP). Several pecan industry groups had previously participated in MAP, and recently joined forces to form this new organization, which represents the 14 pecan growing states.

Under the Obama Administration, USDA has continued to expand markets for American goods abroad, worked aggressively to break down barriers to trade, and assisted U.S. businesses with the resources needed to reach consumers around the world. Through MAP and by supporting international trade shows, USDA is helping U.S. businesses like the Montz Pecan Company and groups like NPGC reach the 95-percent of consumers who live outside the United States. In fact, NPGC first promoted U.S. pecans internationally in 2011, participating in a number of food shows around the world. At these types of events, foreign buyers have become more knowledgeable about U.S. pecans and are reaching out to growers directly to purchase straight from the farm. They are also working to contract entire crops for next year, a practice previously unheard of in the pecan industry.

“The money being invested by FAS through the Market Access Program is paying huge dividends for growers large and small across the board,” said Montz. “Whether a grower exports or not, his price per pound is going to be affected by our new, growing export market. This price stability allows us to make big plans for the future. Just this week we finished planting a new orchard and we plan to continue to expand with more orchards, equipment and additional employees. All of this would have been impossible without the help of FAS. ”

Currently, the American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. Farm exports in fiscal year 2011 reached a record high of $137.4 billion—exceeding past highs by $22.5 billion—and supported 1.15 million jobs here at home. The agricultural trade surplus stands at a record $42.7 billion.