Congress Blog

Agricultural trade demands investment in MAP and FMD

The story is now legend in farmer circles: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, just days after confirmation and armed only with a map of red and blue precincts, in an SUV to the White House to walk President Donald Trump back from the precipice of a withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Perdue used the map to illustrate those districts--vastly more red than blue--that would be hardest hit by withdrawal. The factor that unified these areas however was not their political leaning, but that they were all rural communities supported by agricultural production.

The story, which has been frequently retold as groups like ours fight to keep our trade agreements, illustrates the massive impact trade has on the rural economy. Unfortunately, it also underscores the threat to the progress farmers have been able to achieve by expanding our markets abroad.

Agriculture represents one of the few sectors of U.S. trade that runs a surplus, and comprises the lion's share of goods produced by rural communities for sale overseas. When it comes to soybeans, which represent the largest farm export in the U.S. by both volume and value, there is no greater success story when it comes to trade. Farmers sent more than half of our soybeans to foreign markets last year, driven by significant and rising demand in places like Latin America and Southeast Asia.

That success isn't an accident. At its heart are USDA's Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program. MAP and FMD help farmers establish and expand markets for their products in all corners of the globe. They yield exponential return for farmers and for our economy, generating almost $30 in economic activity for every dollar invested. For soybean farmers, those dollars support research on new uses and new markets, and have increased foreign demand within the animal feed sector, cooking oils, and the emerging field of aquaculture, which will be key as our industry works to provide protein to a growing global population.

MAP and FMD spur economic activity that creates more than a million U.S. jobs, including 800,000 off-farm jobs assembling, processing and distributing agricultural products for export. And as cost-share programs, MAP and FMD are a prime example of the successful public/private partnerships both parties have long championed in Washington.

It's no surprise then that a diverse group of lawmakers have united in their support of these programs. In May, Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced the Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act, followed by introduction of the companion bill in the Senate by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The bill would double funding for MAP to $400 million and FMD to $69 million by FY2023.

The CREAATE Act has the enthusiastic support of a broad cross-section of American agriculture, including the nation's soybean farmers. We have urged the same doubling of funds for MAP and FMD in the coming farm bill because we recognize that without the constant attention and activity supported by MAP and FMD to build robust demand abroad, farmers cannot succeed at home.

Ron Moore farms in Roseville, Ill., and is the president of the American Soybean Association

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