ARLINGTON, Virginia — Following several years of low farm prices, trade disruptions and increasing international competition, passage of the 2018 Farm Bill comes at a crucial time for our farmers and ranchers. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) thanks Congress for renewing the long-term investment in export market development programs and urges President Trump to sign the Farm Bill into law as soon as possible.
“We also want to thank the National Association of Wheat Growers for working to present our positions on export development funding and we are very pleased that members of Congress and their staff addressed those concerns effectively in this Farm Bill,” said USW Chairman Chris Kolstad, a wheat farmer from Ledger, Mont. “Now President Trump has the opportunity to seal a deal that will help us stay competitive in a world that needs more high-quality wheat.”
Productive U.S. wheat farmers fill American tables and still have about half their crop available to export markets every year. They support USW with a portion of their state checkoff funding to build and maintain overseas demand, which allows USW to apply for program funding appropriated by Congress in the Farm Bill and administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. This public-private partnership, initiated in the 1950s, has earned a legacy of success that remains essential to a healthy farm and rural economy.
The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 establishes the Agricultural Trade and Facilitation Program that provides $255 million per year to fund the Market Access Program (MAP), the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, the Emerging Markets Program (EMP) and the Trade Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC). The new law protects funding for FMD, EMP and TASC that had individual budgets of less than $50 million per year under previous Farm Bills. That is a very important amendment for wheat farmers because FMD funds directly support USW’s ability to maintain bases of operation and local representatives to conduct trade service and technical support activities with buyers, flour millers and wheat food processors.
USW is pleased to see additional changes that will help expand its ability to build demand. The legislation now allows Congress to appropriate discretionary funds to cover the cost of administering the export market development programs, rather than covering costs from the appropriated program budgets. The law also establishes a Priority Trust Fund of $3.5 million per year to be used at USDA’s discretion to help meet requests that exceed the appropriated program funds. Another important change now allows qualified organizations like USW to use program funds to conduct market development activities in Cuba.
For more information about how wheat farmers, USW and USDA work together to build overseas demand for U.S. wheat, visit www.uswheat.org. For more information about how the U.S. economy benefits from USDA export market development programs, visit www.agexportscount.org.