North Dakota wheat producers are highly dependent on a robust export market for their wheat, with roughly one-half of hard red spring wheat (HRS) and about one-third of the durum exported to very quality conscious millers and processors worldwide. U.S. wheat as a whole is marketed to more than 80 countries annually. These essential exports are assisted by US Wheat Associates (USW) and USDA’s Foreign Market Development (FMD) and Market Assistance (MAP) Programs, leveraging producer checkoff funds in the global market development arena. Maintaining and expanding these long-established, producer-customer trade relationships is crucial to the marketability of our premium wheats and our producers’ profitability.
The North Dakota Wheat Commission and 16 other state wheat commissions, help fund USW to develop, maintain, and expand international markets. According to Neal Fisher, NDWC Administrator, “This diverse export market base took decades to build and is based on trusted relationships and superior quality and performance traits combined with consistent, professional customer service.” Recent trade disputes with China and a slowdown in negotiating trade agreements with other key customers have caused market disruptions with significant negative impacts on North Dakota producers. HRS sales to China – a top five export market – have been stalled since March of 2018. Sales to Japan – our second largest export market – are in jeopardy if the U.S. doesn’t secure a bilateral trade agreement that puts U.S. producers on a level playing field with our top competitors.
The loss of markets and potential future losses remain a top concern for producers. But news of the additional USDA market development funding to help U.S. farmers and ranchers find and get into new export markets around the globe, will be important in combatting current market disruptions. USW has been awarded $8.25 million in additional export market promotion funding through USDA’s Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP). The additional funding is a feature of the Trump Administration’s three pronged trade retaliation mitigation package, created to ease the effects of recent trade retaliation against US farmers, ranchers, and exporters. Funds will be distributed over the next three years as part of a larger $200 million program made available to some 57 agricultural commodity groups and other trade-oriented agricultural entities.
“Obviously we hope that the trade environment improves soon but in the meantime, these funds will allow USW to increase marketing efforts and work on expanding markets in our key customer regions,” says Bruce Freitag, NDWC Chairman. “Some of our largest, highest value markets took decades to build and we need to preserve those relationships to the best of our ability, while exploring new market opportunities for our premium classes of wheat,” he adds.
US agricultural exports were valued at more than $140 Billion in 2017, accounting for more than one-third of US gross farm and ranch income. US agriculture is also the only sector of the US economy to consistently register a trade surplus each year, averaging nearly $30 billion in recent years.