USDA programs boost exports

2017-03-11T08:00:00Z USDA programs boost exportsBy Joe Steinkamp Illinois Farmer Today
March 11, 2017 8:00 am  • 

Agricultural exports are one of the brightest lights in the U.S. economy, with a strong multiplier effect that is especially pronounced in rural communities. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service:

  • The $150 billion in U.S. agricultural exports that occurred in 2014 produced an additional $190 billion in economic activity for a total of $340 billion of economic output;
  • Those agricultural exports supported 1.1 million full-time U.S. civilian jobs, including 800,000 in the non-farm sector (73 percent of the total employment effect) required to assemble, process and distribute agricultural products for export;
  • This represents 7,550 jobs for every $1 billion of agricultural export revenue.

Agricultural export market development depends on long-standing, successful partnerships between nonprofit U.S. agricultural trade associations, farmer cooperatives, nonprofit state-regional trade groups, small businesses and USDA to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities such as market research, trade shows, trade servicing and retail and educational promotions.

Under the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program, administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, these private-sector groups contribute an estimated $468.7 million annually, primarily from farmer-funded check-off programs, into international market development and promotion. In fact, these “industry” contributions, which are leveraged by public funds, represent more than 70 percent of the buying power of the programs.

Nowhere is the importance of export promotion more evident than in the U.S. soybean industry. Soybeans and soybean products are our country’s No. 1 export commodity. Last year, we exported a whopping $28 billion in soybeans, soybean oil and soybean meal. This amount represents one-fifth of all U.S. agricultural exports and over 62 percent of U.S. soybean production.

A 2016 study commissioned by the U.S. Soybean Export Council showed that international marketing activities conducted on behalf of U.S. soybean growers increased soybean exports each year by an average of 993,600 metric tons (MT), or nearly 5 percent. For soybean meal and soybean oil, the average annual growth over that period was estimated to be somewhat larger at 15 percent (808,600 MT) and 24 percent (149,600 MT), respectively.

This translates to $29.6 of additional export revenue per dollar spent on international promotion. At the producer level, that additional export revenue translates into a cost-benefit ratio of $10.10 in additional profit to grower per dollar spent on international promotion. …

Agricultural exports have for years been the strongest positive contributor to our nation’s balance of trade. Increasing exports is a significant tool to improve the lives of America’s farmers and ranchers while creating jobs, improving our balance of trade, expanding the farm economy and larger U.S. economy and increasing receipts to the Treasury. The FMD and MAP programs have been critically important to this success.

ASA and the MAP and FMD Coalitions hope this hearing will strengthen the resolve of Congress to not only maintain but to increase the support for agricultural export promotion programs, as well as strong support for the Foreign Agricultural Service of USDA.

Joe Steinkamp, a soybean farmer from Evansville, Ind., and a director of the American Soybean Association, testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture. The full text is at

Copyright 2017 Illinois Farmer Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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