The long delayed Farm Bill is again grinding forward in Congress. Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have reported their versions of the Farm Bill. Debate opened this week on the Senate measure, and the House is expected to follow in June.
The current one year extension of the Farm Bill provides temporary operating authority for many key programs through September 30, 2013, but it is important that a new Farm Bill be passed this summer to provide stability and predictability to stakeholders in all sectors of agriculture and rural America.
Among the key Farm Bill programs at stake are the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development program (FMD). MAP and FMD are the foundation of a longstanding public-private partnership that has made the United States the world's leading agricultural exporter. Cooperator organizations such as the U.S. Grains Council leverage MAP and FMD with private sector funding to support export development programs around the world. Unless MAP and FMD are reauthorized by September 30, however, cooperators will soon be forced to curtail these market building initiatives, close international offices and lay off irreplaceable, long-time international staff.
Fortunately, MAP and FMD enjoy broad bipartisan support. But it is a rare program in Washington that does not have critics. Both MAP and FMD have been reauthorized by the House and Senate Agriculture Committee-passed bills. Both are proposed for full funding in the President's budget. Despite this, MAP faces a possible challenge on the Senate floor from an amendment filed by Senators Coburn and McCain, which would slash MAP funding by 20 percent, despite its proven record of building U.S. exports around the world.
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 FY 2012 exceeded $135 billion, the second highest level on record. They supported over one million jobs in the United States and last year earned the United States 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.