Ernst, Collins introduce bill to increase support for USDA export programs

U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that support agricultural exports would see a boost in funding under legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) on Wednesday to help farmers gain a foothold in global markets.

The Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade Exports (CREAATE) Act would ramp up USDA export promotion programs that have been found to return $28.30 for every $1 of investment. It would double funding over five years for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP), two of the USDA’s most successful export programs.

“As American farmers and ranchers are struggling with historically low commodity prices, maintaining and strengthening U.S. trade relationships around the world is critical to the survival and profitability of the agricultural community,” Ernst, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, said.

“The Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program have proven to be effective in expanding foreign markets for American agricultural goods. With one in every five jobs in Iowa being dependent on trade, it’s important that we ensure these programs have the ability to continue supporting our agricultural economy in Iowa, as well as across the United States,” Ernst said.

Established in 1985, MAP enables agricultural trade associations, farmer cooperatives, non-profit trade groups and small businesses to apply for promotional funds to support existing generic or brand-specific export efforts. FMDP, meanwhile, has assisted agricultural trade associations in promoting bulk commodity exports since 1955.

“American farmers, ranchers and fishermen in Maine and across our country rely on programs like MAP and FDMP extensively to help them expand their customer base and market their products abroad,” Collins said. “This bipartisan legislation would help strengthen our nation’s agricultural industry and help create jobs. Maine-made food is renowned for its quality and taste, and this increased investment would enable more consumers to access our state’s homegrown products.”

More than $8.15 billion in growth in agricultural export markets is attributable to USDA programs like MAP and FDMP, but funding for the programs has not been increased since the 2002.