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Ag Groups Seek USDA Funds to Recover Markets

By Ryan Hanrahan

Bloomberg’s Gerson Freitas Jr and Isis Almeida reported Tuesday that “the US is seeing fervent industry support for its program to help the nation’s farmers win back overseas markets from rivals including Brazil and Russia, with agriculture groups seeking more than $900 million in aid.”

“The US Department of Agriculture received applications for more than three times the $300 million made available in the first round of a five-year export promotion plan (called the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program), according to Daniel Whitley, the administrator of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service,” Freitas Jr and Almeida reported.

Overview of the Program

According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, the money being made available as part of the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP) is because the USDA recognizes “that it takes significant investment to open and develop new export markets.”

The USDA FAS said that “USDA is providing up to $300 million in funding to help exporters to tap into new trade opportunities in parts of the world – including South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa – where the middle class is growing and the desire for high-quality food and farm products is increasing.”

“Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP) funds are available to U.S. agricultural trade organizations, state regional trade groups, agricultural cooperatives, and state agencies that conduct approved market development activities to expand exports, address trade barriers, showcase American agricultural products in new and diverse markets,” according to the USDA FAS.

Why the Money is Available

Freitas Jr and Almeida reported that “the US is throwing money at the agriculture industry in a bid to recoup markets lost over the past decade. Brazil overtook the US last year as the world’s top exporter of corn, after earlier doing the same for soybeans, while Russia has surpassed the US with wheat.”

“’Many of our competitors are extremely busy and active promoting their products around the world,’ Whitley said at the National Grain and Feed Association annual convention in Orlando on Monday,” according to Freitas Jr and Almeida. ‘It’s important that we give you all the tools you need to be successful, and that’s what this RAP program does — it allows you to grow and expand your market and promotion activities.’”

Whitley said “he is particularly bullish on Africa,” according to Freitas Jr and Almeida. “The continent, which is expected to be home to 25% of the global population by 2050, has a growing middle class, increased buying power and a ‘strong recognition and appreciation for the US brand.'”

“’It is vital that we get our companies, our products and our industries there now, and we don’t wait until it’s too late,’ Whitley said, noting that competitors such as China are already in the region. ‘I think Africa presents such a tremendous opportunity,'” Freitas Jr and Almeida wrote.

Applications are expected to be selected this spring or summer, according to Bloomberg.

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