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Legislation to increase funding for USDA export programs

Legislative Watch: Export programs to get a boost from bipartisan legislation; CODEX reorganization plan supported; Censky and McKinney receive strong support.

There is strong agricultural support for the bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Angus King (I-ME), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Susan Collins (R-ME) which would increase the funding for USDA export promotion programs.

S. 1839, the “Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports Act,” would double the funding over the life of the next farm bill for the Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program. The Senators emphasize that FMD and MAP generated a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested between 1997 and 2014; these programs have added an average of $8.15 billion per year to the value of U.S. agricultural exports; and added up to 239,800 full and part-time jobs. More than 140 agricultural organizations and cooperatives have signed on in support.

King says “FMD and MAP have a proven track record of helping American farm products reach foreign markets, opening up new opportunities and adding billions of dollars to our nation’s agricultural industry. However, recent funding for these programs do not reflect their importance to American exports.”

Ernst says, “As American farmers and ranchers are struggling with historically low commodity prices, maintaining and strengthening U.S. trade relationships around the world is critical to the survival and profitability of the agricultural community. The Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program have proven to be effective in expanding foreign markets for American agricultural goods.”

The European Union now spends more on wine promotion than the FMD and MAP programs spend on all agricultural commodities worldwide. The 2002 farm bill was the last time these two programs were authorized for an increase.

FMD is largely used for the promotion of bulk commodities, helping agricultural trade associations establish a permanent presence in important markets. FMD is used to establish new overseas markets and expand and defend current foreign markets. It also includes a matching fund requirement.

MAP allows agricultural trade associations, farmer cooperatives, non-profit trade groups and small businesses to apply for either generic or brand-specific promotion funds to support exporting efforts and requires matching funds.

Ag groups support USDA reorganization plan for CODEX
A cross section of American agriculture is supporting Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s reorganization decision to move the Codex office from the Food Safety and Inspection Service to the new undersecretary of Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. Codex is an integral international standard setting body that has a key role in facilitating trade and advancing science-based food safety standards consistent with a rules-based trading system.

In a letter to the secretary, the Food Industry Codex Coalition and others say by moving the Codex office to the undersecretary it will “elevate the visibility and strategic impact of U.S. Codex engagement and strengthen U.S. leadership in Codex to advance science-based standards.” This will help deal with unscientific barriers that impede U.S. food and agricultural trade. Those signing the letter include National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, North American Meat Institute and U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Censky and McKinney receive strong support
There was strong bipartisan support for the nominations of Steve Censky as deputy secretary of Agriculture and Ted McKinney as undersecretary of Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs at their Senate Agriculture Committee confirmation hearing.

Censky identifies three areas that he believes should be focused on for the future of U.S. agriculture.
• Diversifying markets that include expanding foreign trade; promoting local and regional food markets; and diversification of crops through research, Extension and crop insurance coverage.
• Preparation for and adaption to changing weather and climate. USDA has an inherent responsibility to help our farmers, ranchers and forests become more resilient. USDA’s research, conservation, forestry, Extension, crop insurance and other programs all have major roles to play.
• Expanding broadband in rural America.

McKinney pledges to be the “Happy Warrior” for trade. He will work with producers and agribusiness to open and expand markets and work to eliminate trade barriers, especially sanitary and phytosanitary issues. He says he would travel the world to promote U.S. agriculture and expand exports especially with the NAFTA countries, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, European Union, Latin America and others.

In a press statement Secretary Sonny Perdue says, “With producers in many states just beginning to assess the damages and losses from back-to-back hurricanes — and with wildfires continuing to rage in large swaths of the country — we will need Steve Censky’s counsel to help navigate the landscape. And as Congress continues work on the 2018 farm bill, his guidance and input will be invaluable. Likewise, as we continue USDA’s mission of feeding an ever-growing world population, we will need Ted McKinney to be the unapologetic advocate of American agriculture as we expand U.S. access to international markets. He will be the one who wakes up every morning asking where he can sell more American products to foreign consumers. I trust that the Senate will confirm them both in a speedy fashion.”

The committee is expected to vote on the nominations next week.

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