Some programs end Dec. 31 when 2008 Farm Bill expires

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

Pacific Northwest tree fruit promoters say they again fear the loss of federal Market Access Program money.

Commodity groups around the region depend on the money to help them promote and market their crops overseas.

Two years ago, the Obama administration's deficit reduction commission recommended eliminating the $200 million annual program. Obama's proposed budget cut MAP 20 percent and a House Republican study group cited it as an example of excess spending.

But after lobbying by agricultural commodity groups receiving MAP money, the administration decided to keep it since it helps exports. MAP and the $34.5 million per year Foreign Market Development program have the support of the administration and the Senate but expire Dec. 31 because the 2008 Farm Bill has not been replaced or extended.

The Washington State Fruit Commission and Northwest Cherry Growers in Yakima could not be reached for comment but reportedly are worried since their annual MAP funding, last known to be more than $1 million, expires at the end of the year.

The Washington Apple Commission and The Pear Bureau Northwest are not quite as alarmed since their fiscal year MAP dollars of $4.5 million and $3.4 million, respectively, are good through next June.

"I figure it will get sorted out by then, but if something doesn't happen by March it will be a topic of discussion for our board," said Jeff Correa, international marketing director of The Pear Bureau in Milwaukie, Ore. The $3.4 million is 71 percent of the bureau's export budget and promotes pear in 39 countries, including top markets of Mexico, Brazil, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Colombia and India. Canada is a top market but falls under the bureau's domestic promotions.

Contingency planning for cuts has not been done as that's been viewed as premature, Correa said.

The Washington Apple Commission, in Wenatchee, promotes exports but no domestic sales.

The $4.5 million MAP money for the Apple Commission is spent in 26 countries, is 75 percent of the commission's entire budget and allows $961,000 and $440,000 in revenue from grower assessments to significantly fund U.S. Apple Association and Northwest Horticultural Council, respectively. About $1.6 million from grower assessments annually match the MAP money for export promotions.

"I really believe a farm bill when passed will have full funding for MAP for the next five years but times are unknown," said Todd Fryhover, president of the Apple Commission.

The commission already has set priorities for promotions in growth markets of Asia ahead of mature markets in Canada and Europe, he said. Some programs probably would be cut, after commission review, if MAP was reduced, he said. Reduction in funding to U.S. Apple and Northwest Hort would only occur after consultation with the boards of those organizations to see if other avenues of industry support could be established, he said.

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