USDA’s Foreign Market Development (FMD) program and Market Access Program (MAP) have had a positive and significant impact on U.S. agricultural trade. This was the finding in an independent study by HIS Global Insight, which evaluated the effects of the FMD and MAP programs administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). The study focused on the period from 2002 through 2009. By 2009, the report concludes, the increase in market development spending since 2002 increased U.S. export market share by 1.3% and the annual value of U.S. agricultural exports by $6.1 billion. The study concluded that increased investment in market development resulted in the following:

• For every additional $1 expended by government and industry on market development, U.S. food and agricultural exports increased by $35;

• Export gains associated with the programs increased the average annual level of U.S. farm cash receipts by $4.4 billion and net cash farm income by $1.5 billion. At the same time, U.S. domestic support payments were reduced by roughly $54 million annually due to higher prices from increased demand abroad, thus reducing the net cost of the programs. Through the FMD and MAP programs, USDA provides resources to U.S. non-profit agricultural trade organizations, state regional trade groups, state agencies and cooperatives in support of participant's overseas strategic objectives. Program activities include market research, educational and promotional activities, in-country representation and trade servicing, and efforts to counter market access issues.

China Lifts Ban on U.S. Pork — China announced it is accepting shipments of U.S. pork produced on or after May 1. The National Pork Producers Council said, “This is tremendous news for U.S. pork producers. China is one of our biggest markets, so being able to ship pork there is extremely important to the U.S. pork industry.” China closed its market to U.S. pork in April 2009 over concerns about the H1N1 influenza virus. U.S. pork exports to China/Hong Kong in 2008 were approximately 440,000 tons worth nearly $690 million. In 2009, U.S. pork exports to China/Hong Kong were down by 38%, valued at just under $427 million.

New Ground Beef Standards for Nutrition Programs — USDA has announced new food safety standards for ground beef purchased by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for federal food and nutrition assistance programs. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “The health of our school children is a top priority at USDA, and today we are moving ahead quickly with plans announced earlier this year to ensure that food provided to nutrition programs is as safe and nutritious as possible. The new standards announced today ensure our purchases are in line with major private-sector buyers of ground beef and are part of our continued effort to employ the best scientific knowledge to increase the safety of our nutritional programs." In addition to continuing a zero tolerance for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, the new AMS standards will:
(1) Tighten microbiological testing protocols;
(2) Tighten the microbiological upper specification and critical limits;
(3) Increase microbiological sampling frequency for finished products to every 15 minutes; and,
(4) Institute additional rejection criteria for source trimmings used to manufacture AMS-purchased ground beef. AMS will also consider any vendor classified by Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) as having a long-term poor safety record as an ineligible vendor until a complete cause-and-effect analysis is completed.”

New Program Helps Retiring Farmers Transition Their Land — USDA announced the Transition Incentives Program (TIP), a new program to encourage retired or retiring farm owners or operators to transition their land to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. This is a new program authorized under the Conservation Title of the 2008 farm bill. TIP provides annual rental payments to the retiring farmer for up to two additional years after the date of the expiration of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contract, provided the transition is not to a family member. To be eligible, TIP requires the retired or retiring farmer or rancher to:

• Have land enrolled in CRP that is in the last year of the contract;

• Agree to allow the beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher to make conservation and land improvements:

• Agree to sell, or have a contract to sell, or agree to long-term lease (5-year minimum) the land under CRP contract to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher by Oct. 1 of the year the CRP contract expires. Sign-up began on May 17.

Farm Bill Feedback — The House Agriculture Committee completed its farm bill field hearings this week in Sioux Falls, SD. For those unable to attend the field hearings, the committee is still seeking feedback on the future of farm policy. Comments may be filed on the committee’s Web site, www.agriculture.house.gov, by June 14.

More Incumbents Defeated — Last Tuesday’s election continued to reinforce that the public wants changes in Washington, DC, and the message was sent to both political parties. Thirty-year incumbent Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) was defeated by Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) in the Democratic primary. Specter had switched parties earlier, which was a major issue in the primary. In Kentucky’s Republican primary, Tea Party-endorsed candidate Rand Paul won the nomination for Senate over Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s endorsed candidate, Trey Grayson. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, failed to reach 50% in the Democratic primary and is now forced into a June run-off election with Lt. Governor Bill Halter.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.