The USA Rice Federation joined with 129 other agricultural and related export-market-development organizations in writing to U.S. House of Representatives leaders to urge House passage this year of a new five-year farm bill that includes authorization of two key export-market-development programs: the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD). Both programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and expired on Sept. 30.

MAP and FMD are public-private cost-shared programs. MAP helps to fund the federal share for export-market activities, such as consumer promotions and market research.  FMD assists with development of new foreign markets and increasing U.S. agricultural commodities share in existing markets.

"Loss of this funding will seriously compromise critical day-to-day export market development and promotion activities, thereby putting American farmers and workers at a substantial competitive disadvantage in the international marketplace," the letter says. "Without funding for MAP and FMD, Russia, China, the European Union, Argentina, Brazil, Australia and many other countries will quickly gain a competitive edge in these markets."

According to USDA, each $1 billion in agricultural exports supports approximately 8,400 U.S. jobs.  A USDA-commissioned study of the programs found that for every additional dollar expended by government and industry on agricultural-market development between 2002 and 2009, U.S. food and agricultural exports increased by $35, a 35-to-1 return on investment.  The study also found that from 2002 to 2009, MAP-and-FMD-associated export gains increased the average annual level of U.S. farm cash receipts by $4.4 billion and net-cash farm income by $1.5 billion.