Export program money running out

11/06/2012 08:06:00 AM
Tom Karst

USDA(CORRECTED) Promotions of U.S. agricultural exports may soon begin to wither on the vine without renewal of the farm bill.

In a letter to leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives in early November, the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports urged action on a new five-year farm bill during the lame duck session.

With the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill on Sept. 30, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service currently has no authority to run market promotion and development programs including the $200 million per year Market Access Program and $30 million per year Foreign Market Development program for fiscal year 2013, according to the letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Often paired with matching industry dollars, the Market Access Program funds export promotions for a wide variety of specialty crops. The Washington Apple Commission received more than $5 million in fiscal year 2011 to promote apples in foreign markets, and Sunkist Growers Inc. was given more than $3 million that year to promote citrus exports.

Without new farm bill funding, the export promotion programs will soon run out of what remaining money they have and will be forced to shut down, said Justin Darisse, spokesman for the coalition.

The coalition, along with most of the broader agricultural community, wants a new farm bill passed during the lame duck session, Darisse said.

“The (Nov. 6) election will certainly have an impact but there are a number of different commodity groups that need action on a farm bill before the end of the year, and I think we are looking across the agricultural community in pushing for action,” he said.

Kam Quarles, director of legislative affairs for Washington, D.C.-based McDermott Will & Emery law firm, said USDA is using some carryover funds from fiscal year 2012 to distribute export promotion funds in late 2012. That won’t last for long, he said.

“Without action on the farm bill, there won’t be any money to run those programs,” he said.

In their letter, coalition members cited a recent study by IHS Global Insight, commissioned by USDA, which found U.S. food and agricultural exports increased by $35 for every additional $1 invested by government and industry on market development from 2002 to 2009.

Quarles said lawmakers have indicated the results of the election will determine the path ahead to deal with the farm bill and other legislation during the lame duck session.


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