The U.S. and the European Union are launching negotiations to a trans-Atlantic trade agreement, and U.S. agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack is pushing that agriculture be a key commerce area covered in those talks.

“I expressed in the presence of the President and the U.S. trade representative a deep concern that the negotiations take place with the full understanding that agriculture’s got to be on the table," said Vilsack. "It cannot be put to the side and not discussed and not resolved, because there are serious differences of opinion obviously where we are and the EU is.”

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President Barack Obama announced plans to pursue a trans-Atlantic trade agreement during his February 12 State of the Union address. 

At the present time, the U.S. faces issues hindering trade with Europe, including bans on U.S. beef, as well as biotech crops and food. Vilsack said there are great and realistic opportunities for U.S. agriculture, if those limitations are reduced or eliminated. “I think they’re slowly coming to the realization that we’ve got a heck of a challenge as humankind to feed this ever-increasing world population, and we better start embracing science and use it to the extent we can,” he said.