Dear USMEF members,
I want to provide you with an update on the Agriculture Appropriations bills being considered in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. While full funding for the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program were authorized in the new five-year farm bill that passed earlier this year, these Agriculture Appropriations bills are the legislative vehicles through which these programs must be funded for Fiscal Year 2015.
As approved by the House Appropriations Committee, H.R. 4800 includes full funding of $200 million for MAP and $34.5 million for FMD. The bill was considered on the House floor June 11. Several amendments were debated, but the House took no action on the bill. None of the amendments offered that day addressed MAP or FMD funding, but USMEF has learned that Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) may be planning to offer an amendment to reduce MAP funding by $50 million. No further floor action on H.R. 4800 is expected until after the Independence Day recess.
The Senate took up a number of appropriations bills June 19, including the Agriculture Appropriations bill S. 2389. As it currently stands, S. 2389 also includes full funding for MAP and FMD. Action on these bills stalled due to procedural issues, and S. 2389 will not be back on the Senate floor until next month. Although the Senate has not debated any measures regarding MAP or FMD, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has introduced an amendment that would prohibit MAP funds from being used for the following activities: 1) to sponsor field days at, or attend amusement parks or festivals; 2) to support pageants or tours by pageant winners; 3) for the production of television shows; 4) for animal SPA products; 5) for cat or dog food or other pet food; 6) for wine tastings, beer festivals or beer award contests, beer tasting or beer school seminars, and tastings or seminars for alcohol of any kind (including whiskeys and distilled spirits); and 7) for awards shows and contests.
The Chabot amendment’s proposed MAP funding cut of 25 percent would greatly impact the program’s effectiveness and force already-thin dollars to be stretched even further. While the Coburn amendment would not actually reduce MAP funding, it would be a precedent-setting step toward Congressional micromanagement of the program. For example, a broad definition of “festivals” could prevent MAP funding from being used at some very popular and cost-effective USMEF tasting events that help introduce thousands of international consumers to U.S. beef, pork and lamb. Prohibiting MAP support for “production of television shows” could eliminate key opportunities for USMEF to feature U.S. red meat on cooking programs – perhaps even on food blogs and other web-based video outlets.
It should go without saying that USMEF insists on efficient and well-scrutinized use of MAP and FMD funds, and this commitment is documented by the excellent program ratings our organization regularly receives from USDA. But the Coburn amendment is not the best way to address inefficiencies in the MAP program – whether real or perceived.
During the Independence Day recess, many members of Congress will be back in their home states for town hall sessions and other meetings with constituents. Please take this opportunity to express your support for MAP and FMD funding and to urge your senators and representatives to oppose amendments that would cut or interfere with these important programs. If you are not able to meet with them in person, please take the time to contact their offices by phone or email.
Thank you again for your support of the MAP and FMD programs, which have been extremely cost-effective in helping expand U.S. red meat exports. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Philip M. Seng
President and CEO
U.S. Meat Export Federation
This communication was developed using only non-USDA and non-checkoff revenues.