At Maine Harvest Festival, King Highlights Bipartisan Legislation to Support Agricultural Exports

BANGOR, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) attended the Harvest Festival at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and heard from Maine agriculture stakeholders, farmers and food processers. Senator King also joined members of the Maine Potato Board to highlight the Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator King in September that would double funding to two successful U.S. Department of Agriculture export promotion programs and help U.S. farmers maintain an edge in the increasingly competitive global marketplace.

“Each and every booth at the Maine Harvest Festival serves as a reminder that our state’s agricultural products stand above the rest,” said Senator King. “But unfortunately, obstacles such as language barriers and varying regulations make it difficult for smaller farms to expand into foreign markets – in other words, it’s a tall order to ask a family farm to employ an international trade expert who’s also fluent in Mandarin. As a result, many people in foreign countries are unaware that the words “Maine-grown” are indicative of the highest quality. That’s why MAP and FMDP are so important. These programs have a proven track record of helping American farm products reach foreign markets, opening up new opportunities and adding billions of dollars to our nation’s agricultural industry. Passing the CREAATE Act would allow us to revitalize these programs, in turn creating growth in our vital agricultural industry and more good jobs across the economy.”

The CREAATE Act, which Senator King introduced in September with Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), aims to revitalize the USDA’s export promotion programs, which generated a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested between 1977 and 2014. The CREAATE Act would aid two of the USDA’s most successful programs, the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP), by doubling their funding over five years. MAP, which is currently funded at $200 million per year, would see its funding rise to $400 million per year, while FMDP would see its funding rise from $34.5 million per year to $69 million per year. Each of these increases would take place incrementally over 5 years.

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-percent 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. 

USDA export programs like MAP and FMDP 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 FMDP 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 they need.