Exports threatened by delay on farm bill, USDA says

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2013 - Record-breaking U.S. agricultural exports are being threatened by Congress's failure to pass a new farm bill, according to a top USDA official.

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Michael Scuse, undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, said U.S. companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses, rely on government help to gain entry and to succeed in foreign markets. Last fiscal year, the U.S. exported $140.9 billion in American farm products, the most ever.

“We need to continue that momentum,” Scuse told reporters today on a conference call. He also said boosting exports would help put Americans back to work, citing studies that show every billion dollars in overseas sales supports about U.S. 8,000 jobs.

Scuse was joined on today's call by Dave Ramirez, export sales director for Trophy Nut, which processes and packages peanuts, cashews, almonds and other nuts from its facilities in Tipp City, Ohio. Three years ago the company had about $75,000 in export sales, Ramirez said. This year, with help from government sponsored trade missions, educational programs explaining customs regulations and other initiatives, those sales have grown to some $3 million, with a goal of hitting $10 million within three years.

“I don't think we would have gotten to the point where we are now without'' assistance from farm bill supported programs, Ramirez said.

Scuse said he is “very optimistic we are going to get a farm bill in January.'' A House-Senate conference committee is currently trying to forge the legislation, which would authorize and fund U.S. agriculture initiatives such as the Foreign Market Development Program for the next five years.  The last farm bill was enacted in 2008.

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