In a speech at the World Agricultural Forum in St. Louis, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns described the Administration's farm bill proposals regarding international trade, pointing out that the trade provisions complement the entire farm bill package.
"During the Farm Bill Forums many participants voiced concern about interests from other parts of the world attempting to set our farm policy. We believe that the proposals we have put forward will put American agriculture on a more competitive footing for years to come," Johanns told the World Agricultural Forum. "The proposed changes to our commodity programs reduce trade distorting support. These initiatives stand on their own merits but they will also put U.S. producers in a more secure position under international trade rules," he said.
The Administration's proposals for trade would increase funding for the Market Access Program; target funds to boost international markets for specialty crops; increase the U.S. presence within international trade standard-setting organizations; provide additional tools to respond to unfair trade practices and strengthen our efforts to revitalize the agricultural sectors in fragile regions.
In addition, they would also give us new flexibility when delivering international food aid in emergencies by providing the authority to use up to 25 percent of Public Law 480 (P.L. 480) Title II funds to make cash purchases of food near the site of a food crisis.
The following is a list of the major components of the package.
The Market Access Program (MAP) has shown to be effective at expanding markets for U.S. agricultural products. While specialty crops are already a significant user of this program, USDA proposes additional mandatory funding of $250 million over 10 years to help address the inequity between crops that are directly subsidized and those commodities that are not directly subsidized.
The Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program awards grants to applicants for projects that result in market access expansion for specialty crops. USDA proposes enhanced mandatory funds of $68 million that would be phased in through FY 2013. The proposal would also increase the maximum allowable annual project award from $250,000 to $500,000 and allow more flexibility to grant TASC project timeline extensions.
Support for initiatives that help to address sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues and other trade restrictions would increase under USDA proposals including:
• Create a new grant program investing $20 million to further focus resources on addressing international SPS issues.
• Establish long-term mandatory funding of $15 million over 10 years to increase U.S. presence at international standard-setting bodies, such as the Codex Alimentarius, the International Plant Protection Convention, and the World Animal Health Organization.
• Enhance monitoring, analytical support and other technical assistance to support U.S. agriculture in bringing forward or responding to significant trade disputes and challenges.
• Trade capacity, food safety and agricultural Extension programs would be expanded in fragile regions through $20 million of mandatory funding over 10 years.
The Commodity Credit Corporation's export credit guarantee programs would be reformed to bring them into compliance with the findings of the World Trade Organization dispute resolution panel in the Brazil cotton case. The Supplier Credit Guarantee Program would be terminated due to approximately $227 million in defaults and evidence of fraudulent activity.
The Facility Guarantee Program would be revised to attract additional users who commit to purchasing U.S. agricultural products. These program improvements are expected to increase program use by $16 million over the next 10 years to leverage far more than that amount in purchases of U.S. agricultural products.
The Global Market Strategy mandate and the Export Enhancement Program, which are either inactive or redundant, would be repealed.
To assist people threatened by a food security crisis up to 25 percent of P.L. 480 Title II funds would be used for the local or regional purchase and distribution of emergency food.