Four senators introduced a bill Friday to double funding for two popular ag export promotion programs that proponents say play a key role in boosting sales of U.S. cotton, meat, wheat, corn, soybeans and other farm commodities to foreign buyers around the globe.

The Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports Act (CREAATE) is authored by Sen. Angus King, I-Me., and co-sponsored by Iowa Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst as well as Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. If passed, it would double mandatory annual funding of the Market Access Program, or MAP, to $400 million and Foreign Market Development Program, or FMD, to $69 million.

“MAP funding has not been increased from $200 million since 2006 and FMD funding has not changed from $34.5 million since 2002, but our foreign competition in most global markets including wheat has grown,” U.S. Wheat Associates Chairperson Rhonda Larson said in a statement Friday. “To manage that challenge over the years, USW has closed offices and reduced staff to protect wheat export demand in our top markets. With additional MAP and FMD funds, we could expand our promotion effort to more commercial markets.”

Overseas promotion activities took significant hits in recent years. First, funding was cut off for MAP, FMD and other programs like the Emerging Markets Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program during a government shutdown in late 2018. Then the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed many in-person events U.S. farm groups hold or attend overseas.

Groups like the U.S. Wheat Associates say their members produce some of the best grain in the world and the group uses MAP and FMD funds to show foreign processors how to best use it for bread, noodles and cookies.

A study last year out of Cornell concluded that every dollar spent on MAP and FMD yields about $20 in federal and state tax revenues.

MAP and FMD are “especially vital as foreign competitors continue to spend substantially more on market development and promotion of their food and ag exports than the U.S. does,” said National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President Chuck Conner.

And those programs are more important than ever as countries around the globe join new preferential free trade agreements and foreign competitors like the European Union increase their marketing efforts, says the umbrella trade group Ag Exports Count.

“Investment in U.S. export promotion programs has not kept pace with foreign competition, placing the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage,” the organization said in a statement. “The economic impact of U.S. export promotion programs continues to erode. MAP has remained static since 2006 and fully one-third of its funding has been lost to sequestration, inflation, and program administration. FMD has also remained static and without an increase since 2002.”

Correction: This article previously said three senators introduced the CREAATE bill. It was four.

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