US grains commodity group awarded over $13m in USDA funding

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Alfribeiro
© GettyImages/Alfribeiro

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The US Grains Council is among several organizations receiving export market expansion funding from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, last week announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had awarded $200m to 57 organizations through the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) to help US farmers identify and access new export markets.

The funding allows grain exports to explore new marketing channels and address some “creeping protectionism” ​said Tom Sleight, president and CEO with the US Grains Council (USGC).

“Marketing channels are shifting with trade agreements and things like that,” ​he told FeedNavigator. “Trading patterns are shifting.”

The council applied for program funding through ATP.

It has received about two-thirds of the funding it requested, totaling about $13.9m, said Sleight.

“We’re very pleased with that,” ​he said. “It’s a testament to the partnership with FAS.”

The ATP is one of three USDA programs set up to mitigate the effects of unjustified trade retaliation against US farmers and exporters. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) accepted ATP applications between September 4 and November 2 – totaling nearly $600m – from US trade associations, cooperatives, and other industry-affiliated organizations.  

President Trump authorized up to $12bn in programs to provide assistance to US agriculture through a trade mitigation package announced by Secretary Perdue on September 4, 2018.

In addition to the $200m allocated to the ATP, the package also included the Market Facilitation Program to provide payments to farmers harmed by retaliatory tariffs, and a food purchase and distribution program to assist producers of targeted commodities.

In addition to the USGC, several other trade organizations received funding through the ATP, said the USDA.

The American Soybean Association (ASA) was awarded about $21.9m, the National Renderers Association about $547,000, the US Dairy Export Council about $5.3m, the US Meat Export Federation about $17.6 and US Wheat Associates about $8.2m, the department said.

Expansion in Africa

The USGC requested funding for a series of specific projects, said Sleight.

“We have limited ability to shift money between activities – they want to know what we’re going to do with the money,”​ he said.

The funding will be used to explore new markets; the council wants to get broader exposure in both East and West Africa and some funding will go towards specialized activities related to sorghum use, he said.

“[We’re] looking at corn distillers oil and other corn products that we can find new markets for,” ​he added.

Now that the funding has been allocated, the goal is to have final project letters signed and to start work in the next few weeks, he said.

The council’s staff members are enthusiastic about the plans: “They’re ready to go – particularly coming off the shutdown.”

The US Grains Council develops export markets for US barley, corn, sorghum and related products including distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and ethanol. With full-time presence in 13 key markets and representatives in an additional 15 locations, the Council operates programs in more than 50 countries and the EU. It operates on the basis that exports are vital to global economic development and to US agriculture’s profitability.

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