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USMEF urges Congress to maintain MAP funds in new farm bill

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

The U.S. Meat Export Federation is encouraging Congress to maintain current funding for the Market Access Program in the new Farm Bill. The organization fears that the U.S. will otherwise be outspent by European promotional efforts.

An organization that promotes U.S. meat overseas is urging Congress to maintain funding for marketing programs to avoid being outspent by Europe.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation notes that the European Commission has proposed more than tripling its spending in the international marketplace to support the export of agricultural products with the slogan, “Enjoy, it’s from Europe.”

Under the plan before the European Parliament, aid for agricultural exports would go from the equivalent of $82.5 million in 2013 to $270.5 million by 2020, the USMEF explained.

The organization would like to see Congress keep funding for the USDA’s Market Access Program at its current $200 million annually, spokesman Jim Herlihy said.

“There’s still a long way to go between now and having a finalized five-year Farm Bill,” Herlihy said. “We’re hearing very positive things in terms of support, but we know that Congress is looking at cuts across the board. Our feeling — and research has supported this — is that money that’s spent and invested in agriculture has a very strong return on the investments.”

Formed in 1976, the USMEF undertakes numerous promotion efforts overseas for U.S. beef, pork and lamb products. About 45 percent of its roughly $40 million annual budget comes from MAP funds, although third-party contributions for specific projects in the last fiscal year amounted to an additional $24 million, Herlihy said.

“We go in and they provide matching funds, so our ability to bring these resources to the table has gotten us a lot more in value,” he said.

Europe’s “Enjoy” campaign seeks to help ag professionals break into international markets and make consumers more aware of efforts made by European farmers to provide high-quality products, the USMEF explained in a news release.

The continent’s leaders believe its growers are poised to capitalize on global concerns about food safety and sustainable production methods, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos said in the release.

The USMEF asserts that U.S. agricultural exports, which topped $141 billion in value in fiscal year 2012, support nearly 1.2 million American jobs and accounted for a $38.5 billion trade surplus for the year.

A recent USDA study reported that federal and checkoff funds spent on USMEF programs over the last 10 years returned an average of $7.42 in net revenue to the U.S. pork industry and $3.87 to the beef industry per dollar spent, the organization contends.

“Our hope,” Herlihy said, “is that that (current) level of funding can be maintained to keep us on a level playing field with our international competitors.”

Online

U.S. Meat Export Federation: http://www.usmef.org

“Enjoy, it’s from Europe” campaign: http://www.epha.org/a/5872



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