ASI Joins Coalition Supporting MAP, FMD Funding

The American Sheep Industry Association joined the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports in a letter last week calling for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies to support funding for important agricultural export programs.

Specifically, the letter calls for support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Fund. Both programs have been essential to the American wool and sheepskin industries.

"In the late 1990s, the United States was forced to export wool due to the rapid decline of first-stage processing and textile industry manufacturing within the country. MAP and FMD funding have been vital to securing customers for American wool since that time," said ASI Deputy Director Rita Samuelson. "Last year, more than 80 percent of American wool was exported to markets that have been created through the use of these essential funds. These programs promote American wool and sheepskins to foreign buyers, provide technical expertise and even support reverse trade missions that bring buyers straight to American warehouses."

The letter to letter to Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), the subcommittee chairman, and ranking member Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.), calls for strong support of the program.

"As part of the new 2018 Farm Bill, Congress provided $255 million for Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation, under which MAP and FMD are to be funded at no less than $200 million and $34.5 million respectively for FY 20. We strongly urge that you put no limitations on this authorized funding. MAP has been funded annually at this level since 2006 and FMD at its level since 2002. We greatly appreciate the strong support annually expressed by Congress in fully funding these vital export promotion and market development programs and urge that you continue doing so," reads the letter.

"The 2018 Farm Bill also authorizes such sums as are necessary to carry out MAP and FMD. These administrative costs, which totaled over $7 million in FY 19, currently come out of program money. We strongly urge the subcommittee to cover these costs with discretionary funds, thereby allowing additional resources for program use.

"MAP, which is administered by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, forms a highly successful partnership between non-profit U.S. agricultural trade associations, farmer cooperatives, non-profit state-regional trade groups, small businesses and USDA to share the costs of international marketing and promotional activities such as trade servicing, market research, trade shows and consumer promotions. The FMD program benefits U.S. producers, processors and exporters by assisting their organizations in developing new foreign markets and increasing market share in existing markets. Overseas promotions are targeted toward long-term development. MAP and FMD are distinct, separate programs that address different aspects of market development and promotion and are examples of some of the most successful public-private partnerships.

"American agriculture and American workers continue to face increasingly strong international competition supported by government sponsored activities. While real funding for MAP and FMD has been reduced by sequestration and administrative costs in recent years, the 2019 European Union budget provides 191.6 million euros for the promotion of European agri-food products by European trade organizations, producer organizations and agri-food bodies. This is an increase of 12 percent compared to the 2018 EU budget, and it is the EU's intention to have a budget of 200 million euros available by 2020 for food promotion. Many other competitor countries have announced ambitious trade goals and are shaping export programs to target promising growth markets and bring new companies into the export arena.

"Exports are a vital part of the U.S. economic engine, and agricultural exports continue to be among its strongest components. The export forecast for FY 19 is estimated to be approximately $141.5 billion. While this is below the all-time record level of $152.3 billion set in FY 14, it is important to note that average exports over the past five years have increased to nearly four times the level of the mid-1980s. Since its creation in 1985, MAP has proven to be highly successful in helping to boost U.S. agricultural exports, protecting and creating American jobs and increasing farm income. Today, over 1.1 million Americans have full-time jobs that depend on these exports. Thousands of small to medium size enterprises throughout the country, including family farms, depend on MAP and FMD for export markets."

ASI works with both MAP and FMD funds to promote the sale and use of American wool in overseas manufacturing.