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Image: Farm Economy

Major Trade Programs



Related Reports

Note: This topic page may contain material that has not yet been updated to reflect the new Farm Act, signed into law on February 7. ERS has published highlights and some implications of the Act’s new programs and provisions.  Sign up for the ERS Farm Bill e-newsletter to receive notices of topic page updates and other new Farm Bill-related materials on the ERS website.

Agricultural export programs help develop and expand commercial outlets for U.S. commodities in world markets and provide international food and nutrition assistance. USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) administers the export and food aid programs contained in the 2008 Farm Act, except for Titles II and III of the revised P.L. 480, which are assigned by law to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Major agricultural export programs include the following:

  • Dairy Export Incentive Program offers subsidies to exporters of U.S. dairy products to help them compete with other subsidizing nations. The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) makes payments on a bid basis in cash, in kind, or through certificates redeemable for commodities. The program was originally authorized by the Food Security Act of 1985. See FAS website for program details.
  • Export Credit Guarantee Program (GSM-102), begun in 1982, is the largest U.S. agricultural export credit program. By reducing financial risk to lenders, credit guarantees encourage exports to buyers in countries--mainly developing countries--where credit is necessary to maintain or increase U.S. sales, but where financing may not be available without such guarantees. See FAS website for program details.
  • Market Access Program (MAP) is an export promotion program designed to encourage development, maintenance, and expansion of commercial farm export markets. The program promotes exports of specific U.S. commodities or products in specific markets. Under MAP, eligible participants receive payments for promotional activities approved by the Secretary of Agriculture. Participating organizations include nonprofit trade associations, State and regional trade groups, and private companies. Direct assistance for brand promotion to large firms is prohibited unless the firms are agricultural cooperatives. More than 80 percent of MAP funds go to develop markets for high-value and processed products. See FAS website for program details.
  • Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) Program provides funding to public and private U.S. organizations for technical assistance to address unique sanitary, phytosanitary, and technical barriers that prohibit or threaten the export of U.S. specialty crops. See FAS website for program details.

Food aid programs include the following:

  • Public Law 480 (P.L. 480), the common name for the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954 (P.L. 83-480), seeks to expand foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products, combat hunger, and encourage economic development in developing countries. It is also called the Food for Peace Program.

    Title I of P.L. 480 makes U.S. agricultural commodities available through long-term dollar credit sales at low-interest rates for up to 30 years. Title II provides donations for emergency food relief and nonemergency assistance. Title III authorizes "food for development" projects. The Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 authorized a new Food for Development program under Title III that provides government-to-government grants for food assistance to least developed countries. See FAS website for program details.

  • Food for Progress (FFP) was originally authorized under Section 416b of the Agricultural Act of 1949 to provide commodities to the governments of developing countries and emerging democracies or to private voluntary organizations to introduce elements of free enterprise into the countries' agricultural economies. See FAS website for program details.
  • Section 416(b) of the Agricultural Act of 1949 provides for overseas donations of CCC-owned surplus commodities to friendly developing countries. See FAS website for program details.
  • McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, established by the 2002 Farm Act, helps support education, child development, and food security for some of the world's poorest children. The program donates commodities and financial and technical assistance through governments and private entities for preschool and school feeding programs or commodities for sale to generate funding for school feeding and nutrition projects. See FAS website for program details.
  • Local and Regional Food Aid Procurement Projects, also described as the cash food aid pilot program, provides for grants or cooperative agreements to secure local or regional procurements of commodities to respond to foreign food crises and disasters. See FAS website for program details
  • Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT)/Food Security Commodity Reserve. The Africa Seeds of Hope Act of 1998 amended Title III of the Agricultural Act of 1980, replacing the Food Security Commodity Reserve and its predecessor, the Food Security Wheat Reserve, with the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT). Commodities authorized for the 4-million-ton reserve include wheat, corn, grain sorghum, and rice. CCC is authorized to hold funds, as well as commodities in the reserve. The reserve is available for use by the P.L. 480 program to respond to unexpected humanitarian food crises in developing countries. See FAS website for program details.

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Last updated: Tuesday, March 11, 2014

For more information contact: Joseph Cooper, Anne Effland, and Erik O'Donoghue

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