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Commodity groups want funds for export promotion, market development

DENVER, CO – The American Sheep Industry Association joined more than 100 others groups in calling on the U.S. Senate and House agriculture committees to support funding for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program.

These funds have been crucial to the American sheep industry since the late 1990s. Funding for the sheep industry came at a pivotal time as American sheep producers were losing the domestic textile industry to countries with lower labor and processing costs.

ASI uses funds from MAP and FMD programs to support the marketing of American wool and sheepskins to international buyers. For wool, exports have been around 60 to 70 percent of the domestic wool clip in the last decade. The export market is by far the largest market for sheepskins. ASI is the Foreign Agricultural Service cooperator for American wool and sheepskins and the Meat Export Federation receives funds to promote American lamb around the world.

“American farmers and small and medium-sized businesses need continued investment in the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program. The twin challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as competitors’ export promotion programs, highlight the need for continued investment in these public-private partnerships,” read the letter. “We ask that you provide $255 million for Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation and that within this amount, MAP receive at least $200 million and the FMD program receive at least $34.5 million. Working to expand our export markets requires every dollar these programs provide.

“The European Commission announced on December 17, 2020 that it will allocate the equivalent of $222 million to promote European Union agri-food products with promotion programs in countries around the world, including China, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and Mexico. This announcement signals what many of our organizations expect which is intense competition as markets reopen around the world in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. MAP/FMD funding is critical to help U.S. farmers, ranchers and food exporters keep pace and to help us make up for lost time after two and half years of trade conflict and retaliatory tariffs.

“Fruitful trade partnerships take time, and these funds for such activities as buyers’ missions, trade shows, and in-country meetings go a long way toward promoting U.S. agricultural trade. One such example is the growth in U.S. food and agricultural exports to China over the last 15 years from $7.7 billion in food and agricultural exports in 2006 to $28.7 billion in 2020. Numbers only tell part of the story. The investment made by these programs and the corresponding growth has helped small and minority-owned businesses reach international markets that they never thought possible.”

“MAP and FMD are cost-share programs and continue to showcase examples of effective public-private partnership. Government investment is an important part of this effort; however, industry funds now represent about 73 percent of total annual spending on market development and promotion, up from roughly 45 percent in 1996 and less than 30 percent in 1991. For every dollar invested, our coalition partners return more than $28 in export gains. And over a decade, these programs are responsible for export growth totaling $309 billion and 240,000 full and part-time jobs.

“This success has occurred even as the real dollar value of the programs has declined. FMD has been funded at the same level for 18 years. For MAP, funding has remained level since 2006 even as sequestration has siphoned funds for almost a decade. We are asking that your subcommittee use discretionary funds to provide $7 million – less than 3 percent of the program investment – for USDA administrative and operational costs to help reverse this diminished value. With administrative and operational funding assured, the full investment of MAP and FMD can be realized for the intended purpose of U.S. agricultural export promotion and long-term market development.”

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