The U.S. Grains Council, a non-profit organization building profitability for U.S. farmers through export market development, has partnered with the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) for nearly 50 years.

This cooperative relationship allows investments made by corn, barley and sorghum producers as well as agribusinesses to be leveraged with FAS funds in order to provide food and feed for a growing global population.

Michael Michener, administrator of FAS, addressed nearly 300 attendees at the Council's 49th Annual Board of Delegates meeting in San Diego, Calif., about the importance of export market development organizations working cooperatively with USDA.

"Over the years, FAS and the U.S Grains Council have formed a vital link between government and U.S. agriculture to maintain and expand exports of corn, barley and sorghum," said Michener. "According to an independent study conducted by Informa Economics last year, the Council created $659 million for U.S. agriculture or $37 for every dollar invested. This is a remarkable return on investment for any government program."

Michener noted the importance of trade given the uncertainties of the global economy. He noted the benefits of USDA's GSM-102 program, which gives export guarantees to global end-users. The total allocations have reached $5.4 billion, the highest since 1991. He said this program allows exports for U.S. agricultural commodities to grow despite tight credit worldwide. He also mentioned the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program, which Congress has voted to fully restore at current funding levels. Michener noted several Council successes that have resulted due to the cooperation of U.S. agriculture and FAS. For example, he said the Council's 10 years of expanding Morocco's livestock and feed sectors has generated $21 million annually for U.S. farmers.

"Liberalized trade revitalizes U.S. agriculture and the entire U.S. economy. We must address pending free trade agreements and revitalize the Doha Round. The complexities are immense and the stakes are high but we must come to an agreement that is fair for U.S. agriculture, fair for you. We must also reduce obtuse biotechnology barriers to trade, and you have no better friend than (USDA) Secretary Vilsack when it come to the safe and efficient approval of biotechnology around the world," said Michener. "There is more than a realistic chance that we can pass all three pending free trade agreements (Panama, South Korea and Colombia) this year. South Korea and Colombia pose some challenges but Panama is low hanging fruit. I do believe we can get all three passed."

Michener concluded by thanking members of the Council for their 50 years of developing markets, enabling trade and improving lives.