Fewer trade barriers and higher global demand for quality food has sparked U.S. ag exports to climb by more than 50% in the last few years, estimated to reach $145 billion in fiscal 2013, according to the USDA.
Soybeans, wheat and tree nuts, like pecans, are leading the U.S. global surge into foreign markets. And increasingly small-to-medium size U.S. ag businesses are finding market share in the world.
"We've led nearly 150 U.S. businesses on trade missions to China, Colombia, Georgia, Indonesia, Iraq, Panama, Peru, the Philippines Vietnam and Russia. And we're keeping good-paying jobs here at home by resolving issues and removing barriers to trade that have freed up billions of dollars in American-grown products," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack
The Southern United States Trade Association, or SUSTA, is now accepting applications to help small Southeastern companies promote their food and agriculture products overseas.
SUSTA, through the federal Market Access Program, or MAP, reimburses companies up to 50% of their export promotional costs, covering things like advertising in foreign markets, exhibiting at international trade shows and making sure product labels comply with foreign laws, basically to help them better compete in global markets.
Hundreds of U.S. companies use MAP each year, said SUSTA's executive director Jerry Hingle. Last year, companies enrolled in SUSTA's programs exported more than $41 million in American food and agriculture products.
"Demand for American food and agriculture is rising sharply around the world, particularly among growing middle classes that recognize our products for their quality and safety," Hingle said. "We're here to help American businesses take advantage of this trend by giving them the resources and guidance they need to market their products internationally."
MAP is a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service program. Funding is limited.
"The process is very easy, and we gladly walk applicants through it all. However, it's important to get started early to make sure you don't miss out, even if you're just starting to think about exporting," said deputy director Bernadette Wiltz.
To be eligible, companies must be considered small according to U.S. Small Business Administration standards, have yearly sales of at least $100,000 and promote a brand-name product that is of at least 50% U.S. agricultural origin. Companies located in any of SUSTA's member states can apply for funding. Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.