Washington, D.C.—Programs to promote agricultural exports put money in the pockets of America’s farmers and help boost the wider U.S. economy, said Brent Roggie, general manager and chief operating officer of National Grape Cooperative and a board member of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC). Roggie’s remarks came during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing to examine U.S. agricultural trade policy and the 2008 farm bill’s trade title.
“Farmer cooperatives across the country give farmers a vehicle to market their products and compete in a global marketplace,” Roggie testified. “The earnings from these sales are returned to the farmer-owners as patronage dividends and help to provide market-based income from beyond the farm gate.
“USDA export promotion programs such as the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program play a vital role in helping farmers and their co-ops capitalize on these opportunities overseas,” he continued. “Both programs have been tremendously successful and extremely cost-effective in helping maintain and expand U.S. agricultural exports.”
Roggie discussed the success that National Grape’s growers have had in export markets by utilizing their Welch’s brand to build customer loyalty and a reputation for quality. The MAP program has allowed the co-op to grow their exports to Japan by 46 percent in three years, Roggie said, emphasizing that one can now find Welch’s juice on the shelves of 92 percent of Japanese food retailers.
Another way that Congress can help spur exports, Roggie continued, was by passing the pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea and Colombia. “Currently, U.S. grape juice concentrate is subject to a 45.5 percent duty going into South Korea, while the duty on Chile’s competing red grape juice is minimal, and is slated to go to zero next year. That puts us at a distinct competitive disadvantage. Approval of the U.S.-South Korea FTA would eliminate this disparity,” he testified.
Other key trade issues for farmer co-ops that Roggie outlined were resolution of outstanding sanitary and phytosanitary and technical barriers to trade; resolving disputes such as the one with Mexico over trucking; and focusing on a successful World Trade Organization Doha Round that makes meaningful advances in market access.
Since 1929, NCFC has been the voice of America’s farmer cooperatives. Our members are regional and national farmer cooperatives, which are in turn composed of nearly 3,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country. NCFC members also include 26 state and regional councils of cooperatives. Farmer cooperatives allow individual farmers the ability to own and lead organizations that are essential for continued competitiveness in both the domestic and international markets.
America’s farmer-owned cooperatives provide a comprehensive array of services for their members. These diverse organizations handle, process and market virtually every type of agricultural commodity. They also provide farmers with access to infrastructure necessary to manufacture, distribute and sell a variety of farm inputs. Additionally, they provide credit and related financial services, including export financing.