U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers joined more than 120 other members of the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports to urge the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies to maintain funding for USDA export programs when it considers the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill on May 24. 

In a May 18 letter to Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who chairs the subcommittee, and Ranking Minority Member Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), coalition members asked that the Market Access Program (MAP) be funded at no less than $200 million for FY 12, as authorized in the 2008 farm bill. MAP has been funded annually at this level since FY 06.

The letter also called for the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program to be funded at no less than $34.5 million, as provided in the farm bill. 

“Without the MAP and FMD programs, USW would not be able to continue our work overseas,” USW President Alan Tracy said. “Wheat farmers in the United States rely on the export market for nearly half of their crop each year, so wheat exports are critically important — not just to those producers and the prices they receive, but also to the communities that they serve and the prosperity of our rural towns across the country.” 

Because of regular assessments and state-funded special project investments by U.S. wheat producers, USW qualifies to receive cost-share funding from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service through both MAP and the FMD program.

Distinct partnerships

The two programs are distinct, public-private partnerships that address different aspects of market development in complex export markets.

Signed into law in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, MAP shares the costs of international marketing and promotional activities such as market research, trade shows, trade services and consumer promotions.

In contrast, the FMD program helps USW and other U.S. producers, processors and exporters develop new foreign markets and increase market share in existing markets. 

Coalition members cited a recent study by IHS Global Insight that showed for every additional $1 expended by government and industry on cost-share export market development programs between 2002 and 2009, U.S. food and agricultural exports increased by $35.

The study also found that U.S. domestic farm support payments were reduced by roughly $54 million annually due to higher prices from increased demand abroad, thus reducing the net cost of farm programs. 

The return on investment in these programs is even greater for the U.S. wheat industry.

A 2009 study by Harry Kaiser, director of the Cornell University Commodity Promotion Research Program, showed the overall average revenue benefit to the entire wheat industry from combined producer and FAS investment was about $115 for each dollar spent. Information about this study is posted online at http://bit.ly/h4knbR. 

“By any measure, the programs have been tremendously successful and extremely cost-effective in helping maintain and expand U.S. agricultural exports, protect and create American jobs, strengthen farm income and help to offset the government-supported advantages afforded foreign competitors,” the Coalition letter stated.

“We ... urge (the subcommittee) to strongly oppose any efforts that would either eliminate or reduce funding for them.” 

For more information on the MAP and FMD programs and their success, visit http://www.fas.usda.gov/programs.asp.