Obama launching program to boost rural exports

WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Barack Obama heads to Michigan State University to sign the farm bill Friday, he'll be bringing a new initiative with him that he hopes will help boost exports.

Obama plans to announce the "Made in Rural America" initiative, coupling the bill signing with the announcement of a program to connect rural businesses with federal resources that can help sell their products and services abroad.

The program's creation comes as U.S. farmers are sending more products overseas — a record $140.9 billion in the last fiscal year. U.S. officials say additional opportunities exist.

According to a draft of his plan obtained by The Associated Press, federal agencies will host five regional forums for rural businesses, train Agriculture Department staff in all 50 states to advise on export opportunities, and put on a national conference to highlight successful projects.

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