Coalition urges lawmakers to maintain funding levels of market development programs

By Derrick Cain

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2013 - The Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports today urged farm bill conferees and congressional leaders to maintain current authorization levels for funding of USDA market development programs in a long-term bill or in a short-term extension of agricultural policy.

While prospects of a long-term bill being finished this year are gone, the House is moving quickly to approve a one-month extension of the farm bill. The House Rules Committee reported out a closed rule late Wednesday for the extension language (H.R. 3695), meaning no amendments will be order during floor consideration. Even if the House approves the bill, the extension will not be considered by the Senate.

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The coalition called specifically for maintaining mandatory funding of the Market Access Program (MAP) at no less than $200 million annually and the Foreign Market Development (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, who is also former senior vice president of Sunkist Growers.

Wootton said thousands of family farms and small businesses invest to ensure these export programs continue to help sustain their livelihoods. He said 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.

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 EU agricultural export promotion programs from $82.5 million in the 2013 to $270.5 million in 2020. Further, Wootton said China and other countries are heavily subsidizing their agricultural productions to generate exports in competition with the United States.

The National Association of Wheat Growers, and other commodity groups, has long pushed for continuation of the trade promotion programs saying the programs are “essential to our future.” 

In contrast, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and other lawmakers, have argued that MAP funds are being used to pay for overseas product promotion and advertising for large agri-business companies that do not need assistance.

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.

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