USDA will provide more than $141 million to 70 U.S. trade and commodity organizations to promote their members agricultural products overseas, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced.

"Exports account for approximately one-quarter of farm cash receipts," said Johanns. "While U.S. farmers and ranchers sold a record number of exports last year, USDA is pleased to partner with them to do even better. These two programs will help our agricultural community take advantage of opportunities to access markets and reach new customers around the world."

The fiscal year 2005 allocations will be administered under the Foreign Agricultural Service's Market Access Program (MAP) and Quality Samples Program (QSP).

The MAP uses funds from USDA's Commodity Credit Corp. to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities with U.S. agricultural trade organizations, state regional groups and cooperatives.

Activities conducted with MAP funding include market research, consumer promotions for retail products and seminars to educate overseas customers.

QSP funds help to create export sales by promoting awareness of U.S. agricultural products among new foreign buyers. The program provides samples of agricultural commodities. These samples are used in workshops to help train foreign importers on the unique benefits of U.S. agricultural products.

For more information on these export market development programs, call the FAS Marketing Operations Staff at (202) 720-4327 or visit the FAS Web site at http://www.fas.usda.gov/mos/default.htm.

Sun Belt groups and the amounts they received for the Marketing Assistance Program include:

The American Soybean Association, $5,102,079; Blue Diamond Growers/Almond Board of California, $1,772,823; California Agricultural Export Council/Western Growers Association, $1,025,198; Cotton Council International, $10,759,253; National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, $2,023,614; National Sunflower Association, $1,055,610; The Catfish Institute, $336,646; U.S. Grains Council, $5,112,638; U.S. Meat Export Federation, $12,055,587; U.S. Wheat Associates, $3,374,852; USA Rice Federation/U.S. Rice Producers Association, $3,343,573.