To avoid an unnecessary funding crisis for America's long-standing and successful public support for agricultural exports, members of the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports strongly urged U.S. House of Representatives' leadership to take action this year on a new five-year Farm Bill in a letter dated Nov. 2.
"With the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill on Sept. 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) currently has no authority to run market promotion and development programs including the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) for fiscal year 2013," the organizations said in their letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).
The farm families and small- to medium-size businesses that foot the bill for 60 percent of export development depend on MAP and FMD to conduct export activities they cannot do by themselves. And with a forecast value in fiscal year 2012 of $136.5 billion, agricultural exports are a vital part of the U.S. economic engine. However, federal funds for these programs will end early in 2013 for many organizations that have already started cancelling or reducing activities. The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) participates in FMD, MAP and other FAS programs, all essential to the marketing of U.S. wool to international markets.
By any measure, MAP and FMD have been tremendously successful and extremely cost-effective. Coalition members cited a recent study by IHS Global Insight, commissioned by USDA, which found U.S. food and agricultural exports increased by $35 for every additional $1 invested by government and industry on market development from 2002 to 2009. The study also found that increased overseas demand over the same period helped reduce U.S. domestic farm support payments by about $54 million annually.
Without funding for these programs, Russia, China, the European Union, Argentina, Brazil, Australia and many other countries will quickly gain a competitive edge in growing overseas markets, coalition members said. In order to continue to be competitive internationally, American agriculture needs the long-term certainty provided by enactment of a new five-year Farm Bill.
The Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports is an ad hoc coalition of organizations representing farmers and ranchers, fishermen and forest product producers, cooperatives, small businesses, regional trade organizations and the state departments of agriculture. The American Sheep Industry Association is a member of this coalition.