Farm Bill Expiration Hurting Ag Exports

U.S. Grains Council says missing funding limits global outreach and trade promotion

Published on: Nov 2, 2012

With the Sept. 30 expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill, many farm groups expected big changes for conservation, dairy and energy programs, but the U.S. Grains Council says one of their most significant concerns is the end of funding for the Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program.

The Council is an active collaborator with the USDA in using MAP and FMD funds to promote foreign markets and encourage international trade. But, without the funding, the Council worries that the U.S. will lose market share to competitors.

Tom Sleight, USGC president and CEO, says he has already seen a decline in market share.

"Right now, there has been a $17 million drop in U.S. exports on coarse grain, and almost exactly the same, a $17 million increase, with our competitors' gain in market share," Sleight says.

USGC CEO Tom Sleight speaks at 2012 Export Exchange
USGC CEO Tom Sleight speaks at 2012 Export Exchange

Promotional events and meetings keep buyers interested and engaged – and U.S. grains top-of-mind. At the Council's recent Export Exchange in Minneapolis, Sleight says one group alone conducted $5.3 million in business.

"It's those meetings in terms of trade servicing activities, removing barriers to trade, and also technical activities like how to utilize these grains and grain co-products successfully and enhance demand for these products all around the world," Sleight says.

Not only does the lack of funding make marketing grain on the world stage a challenge, the Council has also had to postpone other promotions and activities in favor of keeping global offices open and staff employed.

Though they have enough money now, after January, Sleight says," we are starting to get into some pretty dicey territory."

Offering a glimmer of hope on Oct. 24 at a campaign stop in Boise, Idaho, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor committed to bringing the bill to vote in the lame duck session following the Nov. 6 elections.

Sleight is hopeful for movement on the farm bill or reauthorization of the programs to continue marketing U.S. grain.

"We need to continue to talk about this [funding], because we will continue to see that market share erode," Sleight says. "Our plan all along is hope for the best and plan for the worst."