Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the allocation of $234.5 million to 70 U.S. trade organizations to help promote American food and agricultural products overseas.

"In today's highly competitive international markets, we must provide our exporters with the resources they need to compete overseas during the 21st century," said Vilsack. "When you consider the current global financial crisis, increasing production in key competitor countries and aggressive use of export promotion tools by our competitors, USDA's market development programs are more important than ever."

The funding announced was allocated under the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) Cooperator Program, both administered by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

The MAP uses funds from USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to share the costs of overseas market development and promotional activities with U.S. nonprofit agricultural trade organizations, state regional trade groups, and cooperatives. Activities conducted with MAP funding include market research, consumer promotions for retail products, technical capacity building, and seminars to educate overseas customers.

Under the FMD program, USDA's CCC establishes a partnership with non-profit U.S. agricultural trade organizations. Funding priority is given to organizations that represent an entire industry or are nationwide in membership and scope. Program activities focus on reducing market impediments, improving the processing capabilities of importers, modifying restrictive regulatory codes and standards in foreign markets, and identifying new markets or uses for U.S. products.

For more information about FAS's market development programs, contact the Office of Trade Programs at (202) 720-4327, or visit http://www.fas.usda.gov/mos/marketdev.asp.