The new Center for Agricultural Trade at Virginia Tech is paying big dividends for the commonwealth and the nation.

Recently the center found itself in the midst of the highly contested international trade relations negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The topic? The heavily protected global dairy market.

The center relentlessly produced up-to-the-minute export models during the negotiations, which were under discussion until the eleventh hour. The models provided clear-cut export scenarios that put the realities of trade tariffs into sharper focus. The International Trade Commission and the Office of the Chief Economist — a political body that reports directly to the president of the United States — used the models.

Part think tank, part classroom, and part idea incubator, the center’s mission is to become the leader in creation and dissemination of information on agricultural policy for legislators, educators, and industry leaders.

“With our proximity to Washington, D.C., and our port in Hampton, Virginia, we are perfectly situated to function as a practical resource for policymakers,” said Jason Grant, center director and associate professor of agricultural and applied economics.

Participating in the TPP talks is just one example of the many ways the center plays a key role in shaping national agricultural policy.

During the TPP negotiations that were held in Atlanta last year, Grant and his team provided key modeling information regarding the tightly regulated markets in the global dairy sector that paid off big time.

The concrete gains and losses laid out in black and white allowed the U.S. to solidify a huge win for negotiations around dairy exports and resulted in gaining access to lucrative markets in previously out-of-reach countries like Japan and Canada.

Now U.S. producers enjoy a duty-free quota in Japanese markets and have acquired access to tightly held Canadian markets. Items that run the gamut from cheeses and butter to milk powder and heavy cream are part of the product landscape that Japanese and Canadian consumers will enjoy thanks to Grant and his team.


Article originally produced for the Agency 229 Report.