Programs designed to help American farmers and ranchers develop new markets for their products are essential to combating the far-greater export incentives offered by other countries, says the head of the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports, of which U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is a member.

Mike Wootton, senior vice president of Sunkist Growers and the coalition, was a witness at a House Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture hearing last week. He was also testifying on behalf of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC).

“The European Union and our other foreign competitors have made clear that they will continue to aggressively expand their export promotion efforts,” Wootton says. “For this reason, the coalition believes the administration and Congress should strengthen funding for MAP (Market Access Program) and FMD (Foreign Market Development) as part of a strong trade component in the next farm bill.”

Wootton says the coalition believes that the U.S. must continue to have policies and programs in place that help maintain the ability of American agriculture to compete effectively in a global marketplace still characterized by heavily government-subsidized foreign competitors. “American agricultural producers are confident in our ability to compete around the world based on the quality of our product,” he says. “However, we cannot successfully compete against foreign farmers who are standing on the shoulders of their national treasury.”

Wootton notes that, according to their most recent World Trade Organization (WTO) notification, the EU spends over $1.4 billion annually in export promotion activities; more than four times the amount that the U.S. spends in a year on similar programs. Brazil, Canada, Australia and New Zealand also are spending heavily on market development.