USDA programs boost annual farm cash income, study says

As a result of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program funding, average annual farm cash income in 2014 was $2.1 billion higher and average annual farm asset value was $1.1 billion higher when compared to 2002, according to a new study.

The programs increased total average annual U.S. economic output by $39.3 billion, gross domestic product (GDP) by $16.9 billion and labor income by $9.8 billion over the same time. These programs also directly created 239,000 new jobs, including 90,000 farm sector jobs, according to the study funded by the  USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

These agricultural export market development programs, funded through the 2014 Farm Bill, have contributed an average annual increase of $8.2 billion — for a total of more than $309 billion — to farm export revenue between 1977 and 2014, the study showed. This equates to an impressive return on investment of 28 to 1.

"These programs have accounted for 15 percent of all the revenue generated by exports for U.S. agriculture over that time. To me, such a positive result is just stunning," Dr. Gary Williams, professor of agricultural economics and co-director of the Agribusiness, Food and Consumer Economics Research Center at Texas A&M University, who led the team in conducting the new study, said.

With debate on a new farm bill beginning, researchers also examined what would happen if federal MAP and FMD funding were eliminated. They found that under such a scenario, average annual agricultural export revenue would drop by a $14.7 billion, with corresponding declines in farm cash income of $2.5 billion and significant drops in GDP and jobs.

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