Almond Industry Group Backs USDA Export Funding Boost

The Almond Alliance of California announced recently it strongly supports bipartisan legislation introduced last week that would increase funding to successful USDA agriculture export promotion programs, helping U.S. growers maintain an edge in the increasingly competitive global marketplace.

The bill, the Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act, aims to revitalize USDA’s export promotion programs, which generated a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested between 1977 and 2014, according to the alliance. The CREAATE Act would aid two of USDA’s most successful programs, the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP), by doubling their funding over five years. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced a companion bill, H.R. 2321 (115), in the House earlier this year.

“These export promotion programs have been a significant factor in the successful efforts to export California almonds,” said Almond Alliance of California President Kelly Covello. “These funds help us leverage growers’ assessment dollars in some of the other markets where we do not receive export promotion funds. Funding for these programs has not increased in many years, despite more participants and the increased role of agricultural exports.”

Covello pointed out that without MAP funding, the California almond industry “might not have entered China, which is now our third largest export market. These funds have helped us enter the market, do preliminary research, and grow the program.”

The Almond Alliance of California is a trade association representing the interests of the growers, hullers/shellers, and processors.

California’s top agricultural export at a value of $5.1 billion in 2015, the state’s growers produce about 80% of the world’s almonds and virtually 100% of the U.S. commercial supply. And an awful lot of almond trees are going to be coming into production that were planted both before and after 2015.

“The industry anticipates the crop will increase by 25% in the next three to five years,” noted Covello. “Expanding and creating new markets will be key to the future success of California almonds.”

MAP was established in 1985, and allows agricultural trade associations, farmer cooperatives, non-profit trade groups, and small businesses to apply for either generic or brand-specific promotion funds to support exporting efforts. Generic commodity funds are issues with a 10% minimum matching fund, while brand-specific funds require a funding match of at least 50%.

FMDP was first developed in 1955, and is largely used for the promotion of bulk commodities, helping agricultural trade associations establish permanent presences in important markets. It also includes a matching fund requirement.

According to the alliance, USDA export programs like MAP and FDMP have added an annual average of $8.15 billion to the value of American agricultural exports, and added up to 239,800 full- and part-time jobs, including 90,000 farm sector jobs. Despite these successes, MAP and FDMP funding has not increased since the 2002 Farm Bill, even as competitors increase their efforts; for example, the European Union’s spending for the promotion of wine exceeded the total budget of MAP and FMDP in 2017. The CREAATE Act would curb this trend by providing the agricultural community with the level of support it needs.