Bipartisan effort to boost ag exports picks up steam: Column
By Congressman Dan Newhouse
When consumers in Tokyo or Hong Kong want delicious fresh fruit, meat or other products, they are likely to know that the best are grown here, in the United States. American farmers produce the highest quality produce in the world, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides assistance that helps our farmers gain access to foreign markets that can be tricky to tap into. Access to foreign markets translates into billions of dollars of exports and countless jobs here at home, but without additional support, USDA’s tools for promoting exports will fall behind the competition.
Overseas markets are profitable destinations for American producers in the Pacific Northwest and across the nation. According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, last year our state produced and exported $7 billion worth of food and agricultural goods. Two-thirds of Washington exports went to Asia. Washington is the third-largest exporter of food and agriculture in the U.S.
American producers face stiff competition for these hard-won overseas customers, which is why two of the most important USDA export promotion programs are the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP). MAP supports the ability of agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities to boost exports. FMDP is geared toward creating long-term export opportunities for generic and bulk commodities through assisting agricultural trade associations to maintain a permanent presence in overseas markets.
Unfortunately for American producers, federal support for MAP and FMDP has not kept up with the competition. And that competition is stiff. The European Union has spent more than $255 million this year to promote wine exports alone, which is more than the U.S. invests in MAP and FMDP combined to promote all American commodities. We must revitalize these export promotion tools for domestic agriculture if we want American farmers to keep up.
I recently introduced bipartisan legislation, H.R. 2321, the Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act, with my colleague, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, because we both understand how critical it is to sell American-made agriculture products to overseas customers. Just last week, our effort picked up bicameral support in the U.S. Senate, when Sens. Joni Ernst, Angus King, Joe Donnelly and Susan Collins introduced companion legislation.
The return on investment from MAP and FMDP for American producers is significant. A 2016 study by Texas A&M University found that between 1977 and 2014, USDA export promotion programs have generated a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested. The study also found that agricultural export market development programs have contributed an average of $8.2 billion per year, for a total of more than $309 billion, to farm export revenue for the same period.
My legislation would incrementally increase federal support for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program by 2023. The success of the USDA’s tools for promoting American agriculture exports and maintaining access to foreign markets is proven, and the CREAATE Act builds on that success.
Congressman Dan Newhouse represents Washington’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.