Commodity groups on Wednesday praised the introduction of legislation in the U.S. Senate that would double funding for a pair of USDA export programs.
The bill introduced by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Angus King, I-Maine, would increase funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMD). Commodity groups have been championing the need to boost funding for both of those programs during hearings on the next farm bill. The bill, Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports -- CREAATE -- would essentially achieve that goal. The bill serves as a marker for the senators to champion during the farm-bill debate.
A similar bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.
MAP is currently funded at $200 million a year and the FMD program is funded at $34.5 million. Under the bill, funding would increase by 2023 to $400 million for MAP and $69 million for FMD.
MAP basically provides matching funds to groups such as trade groups and checkoff organizations to promote genetic products. Groups typically contribute twice the match for such funds. MAP can also be used to promote branded products as well with a dollar-for-dollar match.
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FMD is a cooperator program specifically for the checkoffs to promote trade and market activities overseas.
A study by land-grant universities in 2016 stated MAP and FMD helped generate roughly $8.2 billion a year more in agricultural exports from 1997 to 2014.
Beyond lamenting the loss of the Trans Pacific Partnership, farm groups have lamented MAP and FMD are underfunded compared to trade promotion programs in other countries, notably the European Union. Final funding to organizations also usually ends up lower than the allocations to USDA. MAP last year handed out funds of $173.5 million and FMD funded $26.6 million to various groups.
Commodity groups praised the legislation on Wednesday, stating it would help boost U.S. agricultural exports. They stated that every dollar invested in MAP and FMD translates into $28 to $30 in exports.
"With the United States exporting 50% of its wheat, a strong trade agenda is essential for growing and opening new markets for wheat growers abroad," said Chandler Goule, chief executive officer of the National Association of Wheat Growers.
John Heisdorffer, and Iowa farmer and vice president of the American Soybean Association, said MAP and FMD are success stories when it comes to partnerships between farmers and the federal government. "We work together with the U.S. Soybean Export Council to leverage MAP and FMD funds to establish and expand markets for American soy in all corners of the globe, and the CREAATE Act will go a long way to ensuring that good work can and will continue," Heisdorffer said.
The National Corn Growers Association also weighed in. Wesley Spurlock, a Texas farmer and NCGA president, said funding for MAP and FMD must increase. Funding has not kept up with inflation in the past while administrative costs have increase. Along with that, if changes are not made, FMD could lose its baseline funding in the next farm bill.
"Now more than ever, we need to invest in export and market development programs like these to build global demand and help farmers' bottom lines," Spurlock said.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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