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Advocates drumming up support for export $$ bill


WASHINGTON D.C. — As commodity groups prepare for the new farm bill, they have put their unified voice behind a Senate measure to double the funding for two USDA export promotion programs.

With enough support from lawmakers and their constituents, the bill should get some serious consideration, trade advocates said. At stake are the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMD).

Introduced in September, Senate Bill 1829 seeks to increase MAP funding to $400 million and FMD monies to $69 million by 2023. MAP funding has been at a $200 million level since 2006, and FMD has been funded at $34.5 million since 2002.

Known as the Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act, the bill has been referred to the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. Its companion bill also has been introduced in the House.

“It was introduced in the House and Senate as standalone legislation, but the intent is that this will be incorporated into the farm bill,” said Jay Howell, executive director of the Coalition to Promote U.S. Ag Exports. “We want to get it in front of the public and in front of members of Congress so we will get a number of cosponsors come aboard to show the agriculture committees that there is strong support for this.”

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Angus King (I-Maine), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Donnelly said the legislation would help expand market opportunities for Hoosiers.

“Hoosier farmers are among the best in the world and a pillar of Indiana’s economy. That’s why I am proud to work with my colleagues and friends, Senators Angus King, Joni Ernst and Susan Collins, on bipartisan legislation that would help expand international market access for our farmers, increase opportunities for them to sell their products to customers across the globe and strengthen our state’s agricultural economy,” he explained.

Howell said Congress already strongly supports the MAP and FMD programs, but he doesn’t know if members will find the money to fully fund the programs at the requested levels. He said the United States is far outspent by its competitors in ag trade promotion.

“This is a very, very important piece of legislation,” said Scott Shearer, director of the Agribusiness Coalition for Foreign Market Development. “The well-being of American agriculture is closely tied to trade …We need to have farmers contact their senators and urge them to become cosponsors for the bill. These programs are critical for the future of U.S. ag.”

MAP shares costs of overseas marketing with trade associations and industries, while FMD partners with groups like checkoffs to do long-term research and analysis to identify need and emerging markets, said Patrick Delaney, policy communications director for American Soybean Assoc. (ASA), a checkoff of the soybean industry and participant in FMD funding.

About 26 overseas offices oversee the work of trade on behalf of U.S. farmers.

“Both MAP and FMD are critically important. We can’t lose one and have the other try to cover the loss. They are similar but accomplish different things,” he said. “Farmers get it. They need to have conversations with lawmakers and the administration (to convince them).”

Howell said the European Union spends $300 million annually in wine export marketing alone, while the United States is spending a total of $250 million for all its commodities. He said the U.S. is in danger of being left behind on world trade deals.

“Every dollar invested in MAP and FMD generates $28 in export – that means more American jobs and more money coming into our communities,” said Wesley Spurlock, a Texas farmer and president of the National Corn Growers Assoc. “Now more than ever, we need to invest in export and market development programs like these to build global demand and help farmers’ bottom lines.”

All commodities are supported by these two export promotion programs, including vegetables and specialty crops, with the exception of sugar and tobacco, Howell said. Soybeans make up 20 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports, Delaney added. The United States exported 57.7 million metric tons, valued at $28 billion, in fiscal year 2016.

Delaney cited demand for U.S. food and agriculture, especially in China, as well as developing economies in the Pacific Rim and Latin America. “In developing economies they are increasing proteins in their diet, which means they need soybean meal for their animals.”

The Senate legislation is important to the National Assoc. of Wheat Growers. “With the United States exporting 50 percent of its wheat, a strong trade agenda is essential for growing and opening new markets for wheat growers abroad,” said NAWG CEO Chandler Goule.

“MAP and the FMD program have proven to have excellent return on investment and increase the global demand for wheat, while raising farm income here at home. These programs provide the U.S. agricultural community with the tools needed to retain its edge in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

The Senate version of the CREAATE Act accompanies similar House legislation introduced in May by Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). For more information, Howell suggests visiting