Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, speaking from Hanoi, Vietnam, discussed his trip, the first by a sitting ag secretary, with reporters on a conference call. During the call he announced the Fiscal Year 2011 market development funds that are allocated through the Marketing Assistance Program and the Foreign Market Development Program.
"These are two key programs that USDA uses to promote the American brand of product around the world," Vilsack said. "We are announcing grants in the amount of approximately $213 million. This will help to support more than 70 U.S. agricultural organizations to expand commercial export opportunities."
Vilsack says that with the growth in income and population that has been seen in Vietnam and other Asian countries, the Asian Pacific region is one of U.S. agriculture's fastest growing markets.
"It is a regional partner in the advancement of biotechnology and agricultural cooperation," Vilsack said. "We think there is great potential in this market."
The organizations that will be funded through the grants are involved in a variety of activities to promote the American brand from working on market access and trade policy issues to promotional activities, seminars, and working with retailers. Visack spoke about the importance of these funds citing an independent study from last year that found for every dollar that is invested in market development exports are increased by $35.
"Under the Foreign Market Development Program we'll take approximately $29.7 million to 24 trade organizations that represent agricultural producers," Vilsack said. "Under this program those organizations must provide a cost share of 50% toward the program, which will help us continue to promote and increase demand for U.S. agricultural commodities."Vilsack says that the trip was very positive and successful. Among some of the issues that he discussed with Vietnamese officials were the Trans Pacific Partnership, clarification of ways to open the market to U.S. beef and access for fruits and vegetables. He travels from Vietnam to China where he will participate in a meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.