Foreign Ag Service updates WUSATA on trade, farm bill programs
Washington, D.C. – “We are in a new age at the Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA),” said Mark Slupek, deputy administrator of global programs in the Foreign Ag Service (FAS). “We are seeing a lot of good things right now.”
WUSATA held their winter policy meeting in conjunction with the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Winter Policy Conference on Feb. 12-15 in Washington, D.C. Among their activities during the meeting were updates on farm bill programs, including the Market Access Program (MAP) and discussions of the WUSATA strategic plan moving forward.
As a critical part of WUSATA’s activities, the organization partners with FAS to plan trade missions for its member states and partnering small businesses, including trips to Panama in March, the Netherlands in April, Japan in June, Chile in September, Malaysia in October and Angola in December.
“Angola is a new idea for us. We’ve hit some coastal African countries, but Angola is a land-locked center of sub-Saharan Africa,” Slupek said. “We do a lot of poultry business with Angola, and we’re going to see if we can’t make something else happen.”
“Obviously Africa is a key component of this administration’s approach to foreign policy, so we’re happy to announce we’re going to try something more ambitious,” he added.
Slupek explained MAP funding has not seen an increase in a significant amount of time.
“In the early years, we were at $90 million, and everyone was happy,” Slupek said. “In 2006, we hit the magical $200 million mark. Good times had arrived for the cooperator community. Then, for the last 18 years in a row, we are still sitting at $200 million.”
While $200 million sounds like a lot of money, Slupek said it doesn’t buy what it used to.
“In 2011, Congress passed and the president signed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which authorized sequestration,” he continued. “Soon thereafter, program funding started to dip. So, $11 to $15 million has come off the top annually since we started the sequester.”
Additionally, over five million dollars per year are charged to the MAP account for “program administrative expenses,” including salaries, as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“This doesn’t even include inflation,” Slupek added. “Program funding, in 2006 dollars, is only $120 million in 2018.”
Currently, the Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports Act of 2022 has been introduced to double MAP funding to $400 million, which basically serves to bring MAP funding back to the $200 million seen in 2006.
While the bill is welcomed, Slupek noted, until a farm bill is passed, many things are still up in the air.
The application period for the 2024 MAP program will open in May 2023 against funding which has not yet been authorized in an approved farm bill.
NASDA Executive Director Ted McKinney noted, “Timing on finishing the farm bill is always a wildcard. With WUSATA, we will all meet the deadlines of applying for MAP funds and the environmental management plan. We will meet all the deadlines, and we’ve just got to hope the farm bill is done.”
McKinney noted Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has indicated the farm bill will be done on time, as well.
“We will intake applications and wink at our participants to say, ‘Apply against the $200 million program,’ but if we get anything above this, we’ll crack the door open and let people apply for more,” he said.
The review of funding applications typically takes several months, lasting into the fall. However, if a new farm bill is not passed, work on 2024 funds immediately halts on Oct. 1.
Farm bill extensions, such as those seen in 2008, can be painful for the agency as well.
Slupek explained extensions mean segmented funding at current levels.
For example, if the farm bill is extended for three months, MAP will only receive a percentage of the full funding for a year. Subsequent extensions can mean additional challenges in administration of funding.
Farm bill advocacy
“One of the most important things to keep in mind is a lot of the small companies WUSATA works with are in districts where the farm bill is all about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” Slupek said.
Slupek noted there is opportunity to garner support for MAP from districts which traditionally only care about SNAP funding because small businesses who utilize MAP funding for exports reside in more urban districts where traditional farm bill programs are not seen as valuable.
Slupek added, “This is another story out there.”
Saige Zespy is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.