Members of the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports are encouraged by recent progress in farm bill conference committee negotiations to finalize this critical, overdue legislation.

The Coalition also urges leaders to maintain authorization for critical U.S. Department of Agriculture export market development programs in the new legislation or in a short extension of the current farm bill, if that becomes necessary.

The Coalition members call specifically for maintaining mandatory funding of the Market Access Program, or MAP, at no less than $200 million annually and the Foreign Market Development, or FMD, program at no less than $34.5 million, the same funding levels as in the current farm bill.

“At a time when foreign competitors are planning huge increases in agricultural export promotion, U.S. agriculture cannot afford less support from MAP and FMD to help sustain their livelihoods.” said Coalition Chairman Mike Wootton with Sunkist Growers cooperative.

“Thousands of family farms and small businesses invest their own money to ensure these export programs continue to help sustain their livelihoods. But matching funds cannot be obtained for fiscal year 2014 if Congress fails to include MAP and FMD in a new farm bill or a temporary extension.”

Competition heating up

Wootton said the European Parliament recently announced a plan to increase total agricultural export promotion spending by 75 percent in the next six years. He cited a recent statement by the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development that the Parliament will soon consider increasing just one of several EU agricultural export promotion programs progressively from $82.5 million in the 2013 budget to $270.5 million in 2020.

A detailed study conducted by Agralytica, Inc., of competitive investment and programs pegged total agricultural export promotion spending by the EU government (including the program proposed to increase) at $360 million in 2011.

In addition, Wootton said, China and other countries’ governments are heavily subsidizing their agricultural productions to generate exports in competition with the U.S.

“With a documented 35-to-one return to the U.S. economy from MAP and FMD, sensible observers have to see them as successful public-private programs that deserve to continue in the next farm bill,” Wootton said. “More than 1.1 million Americans have jobs that depend on agricultural exports and we strongly support the Administration’s commendable goal through the National Export initiative of doubling U.S. exports. For U.S. agriculture, MAP and FMD are key tools in making this a successful effort.”

Editor’s Note — The Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports is an ad hoc coalition of more than 125 organizations representing farmers and ranchers, fishermen and forest product producers, cooperatives, small businesses, regional trade organizations and State Departments of Agriculture. The Coalition's goal since its formation in the late 1980s has been to maintain strong funding for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program. The Coalition believes the U.S. must continue policies and programs that help ensure American agriculture can compete effectively in a global marketplace still characterized by subsidized foreign competition.