While the US Congress continues to debate budget cuts, the European Commission has proposed more than tripling its spending in the international marketplace to support the export of EU agricultural and agri-food sector products.
"Enjoy, it's from Europe" is the slogan for the proposed expanded export initiative that "aims to help the sector's professionals break into international markets and make consumers more aware of the efforts made by European farmers to provide quality products, based on a genuine strategy established at European level," according to EU media reports.
The proposal, which will be submitted to the European Parliament for its review, would boost European aid for agricultural exports progressively from €61 million ($82.5 million) in the 2013 budget to €200 million ($270.5 million) in 2020.
"In a world in which consumers are increasingly aware of the safety, quality and sustainability of food production methods, European farmers and small- or medium-sized enterprises are in a position of strength," said European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos. "The European agricultural and agri-food sector is well-known for the unrivalled quality of its products and its compliance with standards that are unmatched anywhere else in the world. With over €110 billion worth of exports already, this is a formidable asset for boosting growth and employment within the EU."
"This proposal from the European Commission sends a clear message that I hope our Congress is listening to," said Mark Jagels, chairman of the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and a fourth-generation farmer from south-central Nebraska. "With 96 percent of the world's population living outside our borders, we need to focus our energy and resources on putting US meat and other agricultural products on the world's tables. If we don't, our competitors in the EU and around the world will gladly take that business off our hands."
Jagels noted that the benefits of supporting US agricultural exports are well-documented.
"US agricultural exports, which topped $141 billion in value in FY 12, support nearly 1.2 million American jobs," said Jagels. "They accounted for a $38.5 billion surplus in the balance of trade for the year – one of the few bright spots in our economy."
A recent study conducted for USDA reported that the investment of USDA and checkoff funds in USMEF programs over the prior 10 years returned an average of $7.42 in net revenue to the US pork industry and $3.87 to the beef industry per dollar invested.
"Where better can we invest our tax dollars than in supporting agricultural exports that create jobs, bolster an essential industry and put tax revenue back into the government's coffers," said Jagels. "We need to take a cue from the European Union and support agricultural exports rather than reducing spending on these essential programs."