Johanns announces MAP allocations totaling $100 million

by Jay Sjerven
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Congressional action may result in a funding increase to the 2006 level of $200 million

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns on Jan. 10 announced initial fiscal year 2007 Market Access Program allocations totaling $100 million, which will be split among 67 trade organizations for use in promoting U.S. agricultural products overseas. The $100 million figure compared with $200 million allocated under the program in fiscal year 2006. The announcement generated concern and confusion among many trade associations and cooperatives that use MAP funds to help build markets for U.S. food and feed products abroad. It was not clear whether the reduction in funding would stand. Much will depend on how the new Congress tackles the job of completing appropriations for government operations in fiscal 2007.

Under the MAP, the U.S.D.A. uses Commodity Credit Corp. funds to enter into agreements with U.S. agricultural trade organizations, state and regional groups and cooperatives to share the cost of overseas agricultural product marketing and promotional activities. The program is administered by the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S.D.A.

Trade association, cooperative and qualified small private company participants each year submit marketing plans to the U.S.D.A., which reviews the proposals against weighted criteria, such as the degree to which the applicant contributes resources to the program, historic export performance, projected export goals and accuracy of past export goals. Programs approved receive U.S.D.A. funding at levels set by the F.A.S.

The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 required funding for the MAP to be increased incrementally from $100 million in fiscal year 2002 to $200 million in fiscal years 2006 and 2007. But the president’s fiscal 2007 budget submitted to Congress last February called for a cut in funding for the MAP by half, to $100 million.

Congress last year was unable to submit to the president an agricultural appropriations bill for the current fiscal year. In fact, the 109th Congress was able to send to the president only two appropriations bills, one for the Defense Department and the other for Homeland Security. Funding agricultural and other federal government programs since the beginning of the fiscal year begun Oct. 1, 2006, has been by way of three continuing resolutions. The third expires Feb. 15, even as Congress prepares to receive the president’s budget for fiscal 2008.

In a joint statement released Dec. 11, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, new chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and Representative David Obey of Wisconsin, new chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said, "After discussions with our colleagues, we have decided to dispose of the Republican budget leftovers by passing a year-long joint resolution."

This would suggest, assuming a joint resolution authorizing continued funding of government programs at fiscal 2006 levels is sent to the president, and the president does not veto the measure, funding for the MAP in the current fiscal year could be increased to the full $200 million authorized by the current farm act.

MAP participants sought to dissuade President Bush from seeking a reduction in funding before the release of the administration’s 2006 budget, and then encouraged Congress to reject the administration’s proposal and maintain funding at the $200 million level authorized by the 2002 farm act.

"We were surprised to see the cut in the president’s budget, especially given the great emphasis given the administration to international trade," said Lynn Heinze, vice-president, information services, U.S. Meat Export Federation, Denver. Mr. Heinze said over the years, MAP funding has been "crucial" for U.S. beef, pork and lamb producers to open and hold markets for U.S. meat products. MAP funds supplement those derived from producer check-offs and are used in introducing U.S. meat products to foreign buyers and consumers. Mr. Heinze pointed out the nation’s investment in the MAP has paid tremendous dividends by increasing U.S. agricultural exports, enhancing farmer incomes and protecting American jobs.

Bob Callanan, communications director, American Soybean Association, observed that market promotion programs such as the MAP are permitted under World Trade Organization rules, with no limit on public or private funding. At a time when the U.S. government seeks ways of supporting producers without running afoul of efforts to eliminate or reduce farm subsidies, marketing promotion initiatives such as the MAP could become increasingly important.

The president’s fiscal 2008 budget should indicate whether the administration will continue to seek reduced funding for the MAP. Congress will have its say through the appropriations process for fiscal 2008 and as it begins crafting a new farm bill.

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