West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt was elected to a two-year term as Vice President of the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA) for 2023-2024 on Monday, June 5th during the annual meeting of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA) in Montgomery, Alabama.
SUSTA is a non-profit agricultural export trade development association comprised of the departments of agriculture of 14 southern states and Puerto Rico. SUSTA works with individual state agricultural agencies, like the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, to provide resources to help small businesses with international trade. Since its formation in 1973, SUSTA has offered programs and services to assist exporters of high-value food and agricultural products. The group is well-known and a trusted presence in the international marketplace.
“I am thrilled to be elected Vice President of SUSTA,” said Commissioner Leonhardt. “It is more important than ever for our small agricultural businesses to think big. In 2022, U.S. agriculture exports totaled $196 billion. That’s an 11% increase from the year before. Small business owners don’t just have to think “local” today. With the help of their state departments of agriculture and SUSTA, these businesses can market their products across the globe.”
The Commissioner and WVDA staff work closely with West Virginia agribusinesses to assess if they have the potential to take on new markets outside the U.S. Whether those businesses are growing specialty crops, such as black walnuts or paw paws, or producing value-added items, such as jams and jellies, foreign markets are a growing opportunity for small businesses who want to expand.