The long delayed Farm Bill is again grinding forward in Congress. The Senate is debating the measure this week, and the House of Representatives is likely to follow in June. Our partners at the U.S. Grains Council remind us that important USDA export promotion programs are now scheduled to expire on September 30, so it is vital that the new Farm Bill be reauthorized this year to ensure that the U.S. continues to lead the world in agricultural exports. Illinois Corn Marketing Board partners with USGC at the national level to secure and maintain export markets for corn and DDGS.
The old Farm Bill expired Sept. 30, 2012, and farm programs are currently operating on a one-year extension. If not reauthorized before September 30 of this year, a number of key programs including the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program will shut down. This in turn could force U.S. cooperator organizations engaged in export promotion to close foreign offices and lay off irreplaceable international staff as early as this September.
The biggest immediate obstacle to Farm Bill passage continues to be funding levels for SNAP (Food Stamps). More than three quarters of total Farm Bill spending is devoted to nutrition programs, and the House and Senate bills are far apart. In an era of budget austerity, this is a major sticking point.
Nonetheless, many other important programs and issues are also at risk. It is a rare program in Washington that does not have critics. MAP and FMD are not exceptions to the rule. Both programs enjoy broad bipartisan support, both are proposed for full funding in the President’s budget, and both are supported by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.
Due to its broad bipartisan support, MAP has withstood such challenges in the past. It is important for the future of U.S. agricultural exports in all sectors, including feed grains and byproducts, that this battle again be won and that MAP be reauthorized at full funding levels.
Agricultural exports in fiscal year 2012 exceeded $135 billion, the second-highest level on record, and supported over one million jobs in the United States. Agriculture is truly an American trade champion, earning in FY 2012 a trade surplus of more than $32 billion. Independent analysis has confirmed that USDA’s market development programs generate approximately $35 in foreign sales for every dollar invested. As the Senate debates the Farm Bill this week, it is vital that Senators be aware of the constructive role played by the proven, tested, and effective MAP and FMD programs.