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Guest Editorial

Expanding opportunities for Central Washington farmers

BY DOC HASTINGS

American farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world. As we become more efficient, however, we must also work harder to develop new export opportunities. This is difficult when many of our trading partners put up protective barriers.

Whether it's tree fruits to Central America, potatoes to Mexico or beef to Japan - our Central Washington agricultural producers need fair trade deals and the resources necessary to grow export markets.

In order to help farmers and farm communities overcome this challenge, I am a leading proponent of the Market Access Program (MAP), which is one of our nation's best tools for opening new markets and creating new export opportunities. I authored legislation to more than double funding for MAP to $200 million. My legislation was signed into law as part of the Farm Bill.

As Congress considers next year's federal budget, I am leading a group of my colleagues in urging the continued funding of MAP.

MAP is aimed at creating, expanding, and maintaining foreign market opportunities for U.S. agricultural products through consumer promotions, market research and technical assistance. The funding provided through the Market Access Program is particularly important for those who produce the hundreds of specialty crops grown in Central Washington - including apples, cherries, hops, pears, potatoes and wine grapes.

With a proven track record of success, MAP is helping our growers increase sales abroad. The pear industry has seen a five-fold increase in the amount of pears exported to New Zealand and has expanded into new markets like India. Consumer promotions funded by MAP have helped U.S. potato growers increase exports to China, Mexico, Central America and more than double exports to Taiwan. Through greater participation in international expos, new export markets have been created for Northwest wine producers.

It is clear that this program's return on investment is far greater than the cost of the Market Access Program to the federal government. The groups who apply for MAP funds must undergo a competitive review process, provide their own matching funds and demonstrate that their program is effective. The high level of accountability required by the MAP program ensures that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently.

By opening foreign markets to America's agricultural products and breaking down trade barriers, the MAP program benefits American farmers and our nation's economy while improving our trade balance and creating jobs for people right here in Central Washington.

Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's 4th Congressional District.

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