Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced the opening of export markets to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia for U.S. day-old chicks and hatching eggs, increasing U.S. exports by an estimated $25 million a year.

"This is a significant agreement for poultry exporters in the United States," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. "For nearly 10 years, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has pursued the opening of the Russian market to U.S. day-old chicks and hatching eggs, and now we have also secured access for these products to Belarus and Kazakhstan."

In February, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service veterinary health personnel and their counterparts in Moscow developed the export documentation that Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will issue for products shipped to the three countries. In 2010, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus formed a Customs Union, and are currently working to harmonize import requirements for cattle and other live animals and livestock products. The market access for poultry commodities represents the first of nearly 40 new agreements related to live animals and animal products that USDA will work to negotiate with the Customs Union.

Vilsack made the announcement on April 3. The secretary also announced the opening of dairy cattle trade to Iraq, and the  arrival of the first shipment of U.S. Anjou pears to China. This is the first time U.S. pairs have been available to consumers in China.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's team of technical experts, based in the United States and abroad, includes scientists, veterinarians, pathologists, and entomologists that advocate on behalf of U.S. agriculture. They build relationships with their agricultural health and regulatory counterparts in other countries and use scientific principles to explain to foreign officials why U.S. commodities are safe to import. The agency's efforts include keeping U.S. agricultural industries free from pests and diseases and certifying that the millions of U.S. agricultural and food products shipped to markets abroad meet the importing countries' entry requirements.