According to area farm officials, valley poultry is key to Virginia agriculture exports remaining strong, a Daily News Record story reports.

Virginia exported $2.22 billion worth of agricultural products in 2008, a 27% increase from 2007's $1.74 billion, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Tom Stanley, extension agent for farm business management in the central Shenandoah Valley, credits part of that trend to trust in the USDA.

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The U.S. food safety system is "highly regarded and widely trusted. The USDA-inspected seal is the gold standard around the world," Stanley said.

The U.S. was the world leader in poultry exports last year, with more than 41% of shipments of poultry abroad. Brazil, the second-leading supplier of poultry, had 38% of the market, according to the USDA.