The Market Access Program (MAP) came under attack again in the Senate, with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) attempting to eliminate funding for the export market development program at a Senate Finance Committee meeting.

Two amendments prepared by Coburn related to the MAP program were ruled non-germane and ultimately not considered. Still, the effort showed the continual attempts by some Members to end market development programs that are proven to be effective, efficient policies with excellent returns to farmers and the economy.

MAP and a sister program, the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, are regular targets of certain Members who don’t appreciate their positive impacts on farmers’ incomes and the U.S. economy.

Both programs are authorized in the farm bill, which is currently up for renewal, with MAP receiving $200 million annually and FMD receiving $34.5 million annually.

They are managed by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, which awards matching funds to non-profit U.S. agricultural trade associations and other groups promoting the sales of U.S. commodities overseas. To be eligible for the funding, farmers must contribute up to a 100 percent match and recipient organizations must annually submit promotion plans for review and approval.

A recent report on the program from IHS Global Insights, done at USDA’s request, showed that MAP and FMD have boosted agricultural exports by $6.1 billion, supporting up to 50,000 jobs.

The study also showed MAP and FMD provide a $35-to-$1 return on investment and have reduced U.S. domestic farm safety net payments an estimated $54 million because of the higher prices that come with more overseas sales.

For the wheat industry, which uses the programs to support U.S. Wheat Associates’ work around the world, the ROI on MAP and FMD is even larger.

A 2009 study done at the Cornell University Commodity Promotion Research Program showed that for every $1 invested by producers and the federal government between 2002 and 2009, $115 returned to the U.S. economy.

The Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association (OWGA), which represents wheat producers in Coburn’s home state, responded to his efforts this week with blunt rejection.

“The Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association is very concerned about Senator Tom Coburn’s attack on Oklahoma agriculture and the Oklahoma economy through his repeated proposals to cut funding for the Market Access Program (MAP), including amendments prepared for consideration by the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday,” said OWGA Past President and wheat farmer Jimmie Musick in a statement.

“Though today’s amendments were ruled out of order, we know that in his quest to cut the federal budget, he will again attack this highly successful program that brings jobs and dollars back to his own constituents and the United States economy.

“The Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association and its farmer-members support efforts to cut the federal budget, but strongly oppose taking an axe to a program that has been proven to have a positive net effect on our economy.”

NAWG and its state wheat grower association members are strong supporters of both MAP and FMD and will continue to work to ensure they are fully funded and produce the maximum possible benefit for U.S. farmers and taxpayers.

More about MAP is available here.