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US farmers urge lawmakers to support export assistance programs

Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee are being urged to maintain funding for two key USDA export assistance programs that the Trump administration has targeted for elimination as well as other programs that help U.S. farmers sell everything from apples to popcorn overseas.

Congress created the Market Access Program (MAP), Foreign Market Development (FMD) and other similar programs to help American farmers create and widen markets in foreign countries. Thursday's Agriculture Committee hearing showed there is still plenty of support on Capitol Hill and in rural America for the assistance that witnesses and lawmakers hailed.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, was one of several committee members who agreed that MAP, FMD and the other programs need to be maintained and even strengthened in the next farm bill.

The program, which is funded equally by producer groups and federal dollars, makes it affordable for groups to maintain offices and staff around the globe and work with local importers and governments to promote U.S. farm goods.

Eric Halverson, CEO of potato giant Black Gold Farms and a witness at the hearing, gave MAP some of the credit for helping to regain Asian clients after the recent shutdown of West Coast ports that prevented U.S. exporters of potatoes, hay, beef, pork, apples and other goods from shipping their products.

“In many cases restaurants, food manufacturers and retailers switched back to U.S. product this year after being forced to switch to alternative sources due to the West Coast port issues the previous year,” Halverson said. “Given the higher price of the U.S. product, this is a real testament to the marketing and promotion programs being conducted and to the high quality of U.S. potatoes and potato products.”

Read more at agri-pulse.com

Publication date: 7/17/2017


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