Farm Bill Trade and Food Aid Provisions
CRS Report for Congress
Farm Bill Trade and Food Aid Provisions
Geoffrey S. Becker
Specialist in Agricultural Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Exports are viewed by most U.S. agricultural groups as critical to their prosperity.
Thus, the trade provisions of omnibus farm legislation (P.L. 107-171), passed and
signed into law in May 2002, are of great interest to the agricultural community. The
measure includes a trade title reauthorizing, through 2007, the major foreign food aid
and agricultural export programs. It also contains other provisions affecting agricultural
trade, including new country-of-origin labeling requirements for meat, seafood, and
produce; and increased domestic farm subsidies with possible implications for U.S.
trade relations. This report will not be updated.
With agricultural exports accounting for about one-fourth of U.S. farm income,
policymakers view efforts to develop and maintain overseas markets as vital to the
sector’s financial health. After reaching a record of nearly $60 billion in FY1996, farm
and food exports declined to $49.2 billion by FY1999, but were beginning to recover, to
a USDA-estimated $52.8 billion in FY2001 and $54.5 billion in FY2002. The drop in
exports after FY1996 – attributed to financial problems in Asian and other emerging
markets, increased competition due to large world supplies of major commodities, and
the relative strength of the U.S. dollar – contributed to a decline in U.S. farm prices,
leading Congress to pass multi-billion dollar “emergency” aid legislation for farmers in
The Administration and Congress, primarily through its Agriculture Committees,
attempt to promote U.S. exports through an array of domestic farm programs, agricultural
export subsidy and promotion activities, and foreign food aid programs. Most of these
programs are periodically reviewed, amended, and reauthorized as part of an omnibus,
multi-year farm bill. A new farm bill, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of
2002 (H.R. 2646; H.Rept. 107-424), was cleared by Congress in early May and signed
by the President shortly thereafter (P.L. 107-171).
However, many other variables affect the level of U.S. agricultural exports, including
changing income, population, and market preferences in foreign markets; the value of the
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dollar relative to other currencies; countries’ import policies; and the relative prices of
foreign competitors’ exports, among other things.
Programs and Provisions of the 1996 Law
Title II of the 1996 Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act (P.L. 104-127)
was the last omnibus farm law reauthorizing (generally through 2002) the major foreign
food aid and agricultural export programs. They included:1
Direct Export Subsidies. The Export Enhancement Program (EEP) and the
Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP) both authorize USDA to offer bonuses that
enable U.S. exporters to sell commodities at lower prices to buyers in targeted foreign
markets. Although authorized at $478 million annually, EEP (which subsidized mainly
wheat but also poultry, pork, feed grains, and rice exports) has been used little in recent
years. DEIP bonus values for dairy product exports have ranged from about $20 million
up to $140 million per year.
Market Promotion Programs. Both the Market Access Program (MAP), recently
funded at $90 million annually, and the Foreign Market Development Cooperator
Program (FMDP), funded at about $28-30 million per year, cover part (but not all) of the
cost of promoting U.S. farm and food products in overseas markets through activities
conducted by farm trade associations and related groups.
Export Credit Guarantees. Private U.S. financial institutions extend financing
to cash-short countries for the purchase of U.S. farm products, and USDA’s Commodity
Credit Corporation (CCC) assumes the risk of default. GSM-102 provides shorter-term
(6-months to 3-year) and GSM-103 longer-term (up to 10-year) financing. The 1996 law
authorized up to $5.5 billion annually, but actual program activity has been $3-4 billion
Foreign Food Aid. The U.S. Government provides food aid through three major
channels. First, the P.L. 480, or Food for Peace program, consists of: Title I, trade and
development assistance, providing concessional sales of agricultural commodities to
developing countries for dollars on credit terms or for local currencies; Title II, emergency
and humanitarian assistance, providing for the donation of commodities to meet food needs
overseas; and Title III, food for development, authorizing government-to-government
grants to support long-term growth in the least developed countries (Titles II and III are
administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, AID). The P.L. 480
annual budget is approximately $1 billion. Second, Food for Progress (FFP), with
program activity at approximately $90-$120 million per year, provides commodities to
1 Unless noted, these programs are administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).
For a more detailed description, see: CRS Issue Brief IB98006, Agricultural Export and Food Aid
Programs; CRS Report RS20402, Agricultural Export Programs: The Dairy Export Incentive
Program (DEIP); CRS Report RS20399, Agricultural Export Programs: The Export
Enhancement Program (EEP); CRS Report RS20415, Agricultural Export Programs: The Market
Access Program and Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program; CRS Report RS20858,
Agricultural Export Subsidies, Export Credits, and the World Trade Organization; and CRS
Report RS20520, Foreign Food Aid Programs: Background and Selected Issues.
support countries committed to expanding free enterprise in their agricultural economies;
FFP uses commodities from both the P.L. 480 (Title I) and CCC Section 416 account.
Third, Section 416(b) of the Agricultural Act of 1949 permanently authorizes USDA to
donate CCC-owned surplus commodities overseas; annual programming is highly variable
because 416 use depends upon the availability of such surpluses.
In renewing the food aid and export assistance programs, the 107th Congress again
was confronted with questions of policy direction and funding. Levels of spending and
volumes of product subsidized under EEP and DEIP are subject to limitations under the
multilateral Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URAA). In practice, EEP has
been used very little in recent years; DEIP has been used to the limits of the URAA.
Market promotion programs like MAP, the food aid programs, and export credits (GSM)
are not considered to be trade distorting under the current URAA, and therefore are not
subject to spending disciplines. However, foreign trading partners argue that the United
States has utilized food aid and export credits as ways to dispose of heavily subsidized
farm surpluses, thereby distorting trade – and want such programs to be disciplined in the2
new round of negotiations.
Some have questioned whether export subsidy and promotion activities actually
increase overseas sales or simply displace commercial sales. Even if sales increase, do
they translate into higher farm prices and incomes – or might direct farm subsidies be more
cost-effective? Some critics claim that these programs benefit primarily large food and
export companies (who can afford to pay for promotion activities themselves) or foreign
buyers more than U.S. producers. Defenders cite studies claiming positive outcomes from
such spending. Similar questions arise with regard to foreign food aid.
The conference version of omnibus farm legislation was approved by the House and
Senate on May 2 and May 8, 2002, respectively. The President signed the measure on May
13, 2002. Conferees had worked from mid-March through late April 2002 to resolve
differences in the bill, including in Title III, the title where most program authorizations
are located. (Some trade-related provisions are located in other parts of the measure.)
The House Agriculture Committee had marked up its omnibus bill (H.R. 2646,
H.Rept. 107-191, Parts 1 and 2) in late July 2001, and included a trade title that
reauthorized, through 2011, the major foreign food aid and agricultural export programs.
The International Relations Committee amended the trade title (H.Rept. 107-191, Part 3)
in early September 2001. Differences between the two panels’ proposals were resolved,
and were reflected in a wide-ranging substitute amendment that the Agriculture Committee
brought to the House floor. The full House approved the bill with several amendments on
October 5, 2001. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that direct
2 The URAA also limits trade-distorting U.S. domestic farm support to no more than $19.1 billion
per year; see page 6.
(mandatory) budget authority under the trade title would have been about $5.4 billion over
The Senate Agriculture Committee had approved its farm bill (S. 1731) on November
15, 2001. The panel had approved the trade title on November 7, 2001, drawing primarily
from the trade titles of separate farm bills introduced by the chairman (S. 1628) and
ranking minority member (S. 1571). The bill reauthorized the major food aid and export
programs through 2006, and also made a number of other changes in the programs that
differ from provisions in the House version. The full Senate approved its version (after a
lengthy floor debate and series of amendments), on February 13, 2002. The CBO estimate
for the Senate trade title was about $6 billion ($2.1 billion above baseline) over 10 years
(although it was just a 5-year renewal).
CBO has estimated the cost of the conference version of the trade title to be $5.1
billion ($1.1 billion above baseline) over 10 years, and $2.9 billion ($532 million above
baseline) over 6 years (FY2002-07).
Selected highlights of the final bill trade provisions follow.3
Market Access and Foreign Market Development Programs
The law reauthorizes MAP, increasing direct (mandatory) spending from its current
annual level of $90 million to $100 million in FY2002, $110 in FY2003, $125 million in
FY2004, $140 million in FY2005, and $200 million in FY2006 and FY2007. FMDP is
extended through FY2007 at an annual level of $34.5 million in direct spending. Under
both programs, new participants and emerging markets must be given equal consideration
in applications for the increased funds.
Export Enhancement and Dairy Incentive Programs
EEP is reauthorized by the law at its current annual level of $478 million. The law
adds, to the list of “unfair trade practices” against which EEP can be used, questionable
pricing practices by certain state trading enterprises; use of subsidies that decrease U.S.
export market opportunities or distort agricultural markets; unfair technical barriers to
trade; administration of tariff rate quotas so as to impede imports of U.S. commodities; or
failure to meet trade agreement obligations with the United States.
The commodity title (Title I) of the law extends also DEIP, including current
language that DEIP be used to the limits permitted under the URAA. DEIP has been
authorized through the commodity rather than trade title in past farm bills, reflecting a
view that the program is an integral part of U.S. dairy policy.
3 Source: conference report on H.R. 2646 (H.Rept. 107-424) and House and Senate Agriculture
Committee summaries. CRS Report RL31581, Trade Title of the 2002 Farm Bill: Comparison
of Final Provisions with the House and Senate Proposals, and Prior Law, is a more detailed
section-by-section explanation of the trade title.
Export Credit Guarantees
The law reauthorizes the GSM programs at their current levels and with the current
requirement that not less than 35% of guarantees be used to promote processed or high-
value products. The law also increases the term for supplier credits under GSM to 360
days if an authorization of appropriations to fund loan terms greater than the current length
of 180 days is provided. (The supplier credit feature of the law has permitted the CCC to
issue credit guarantees for repayment of credit made available by a U.S. exporter to a
foreign buyer for up to 180 days.)
Foreign Food Aid
P.L. 480 Food for Peace. The law extends these programs through FY2007, and
adds conflict prevention as a new program objective. The law increases the minimum level
of Title II commodities from 2.025 million metric tons (MMT) to 2.5 MMT annually, and
uncaps the current $1 billion limit on Title II annual costs. Other provisions make several
changes largely aimed at enhancing the capacity of providers to deliver food aid – such as
effectively increasing funding for shipment and administrative expenses, streamlining
application procedures for qualified providers, allowing monetization in U.S. dollars in
foreign countries, and establishing deadlines for U.S. AID to act on proposals, for example.
International Food for Education. A $300 million pilot Global Food for
Education Initiative was launched by the Clinton Administration to help establish school
and pre-school food programs in developing countries, and is still underway. The House
measure explicitly permitted (but did not require) the President to operate an international
food for education and child nutrition program, authorizing such sums as necessary
through 2011. The Senate bill required the Secretary of Agriculture to operate a similar
type of program, at up to $150 million per year for 4 years (FY2002-2005). The final
version authorizes the President to establish the program with funding mandated at $100
million in FY2003 but subject to appropriation in FY2004-2007.
Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. The law extends this program which requires
USDA to maintain a reserve of up to 4 MMT of grains to meet emergency food needs in
Food for Progress. FFP is reauthorized through FY2007; not less than 400,000
metric tons annually may be provided. The law increases the annual limitations on
program transportation costs from $30 million to $40 million, and on administrative costs
from $10 million to $15 million. It also makes a number of administrative and operational
changes, such as encouraging multi-year and multi-country agreements; permitting
monetization of commodities in U.S. dollars; and streamlining application and approval
These provisions contrast with the Bush Administration’s position on food aid. After
a review of U.S. food aid, the Administration earlier in 2002 proposed (in conjunction with
its FY2003 budget plan) changes in the programs that effectively would eliminate use of
CCC resources under Section 416(b), and result in less overall food aid tonnage next year.
The Administration proposal also calls for all programs now run through private voluntary
organizations, cooperatives, and the World Food Program to be placed in AID, with USDA
food aid activities confined to government-to-government programs. Thus, FFP shows no
CCC program level in the Administration proposal; any FFP activity would be limited to
government-to-government programs under P.L. 480 Title I. (Both section 416(b) and
CCC funds used for Food for Progress are in the mandatory category of spending and do
not require annual appropriation of budget authority.)
Other Programs and Provisions
Country-of-Origin Labeling. The conference version (in Title X) requires, after
2 years, retail-level country-of-origin labeling for muscle cuts and ground beef, pork, and
lamb; farm-raised and wild fish and shellfish; fresh fruits and vegetables (including frozen
and ice-packed); and peanuts. Retailers (except food service establishments) would have
to inform consumers of the country of origin of through “a label, stamp, mark, placard, or
other clear and visible sign on the covered commodity or on the package, display, holding
unit, or bin containing the commodity at the final point of sale.” The requirement would
take effect on September 30, 2004; until then, the program is voluntary. (See CRS Report
Cuba Sanctions. The Senate bill contained a provision, not in the House or
conference version, that would have ended the current statutory restriction against private
financing of agricultural sales to Cuba.
Speciality Crop Trade. The law newly requires $2 million annually in CCC
spending for a program to remove or mitigate sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) and related
barriers to U.S. exports of speciality crops (e.g., fruits and vegetables).
Emerging Markets Program.The final legislation extends this program, first
authorized in 1990 to assist emerging democracies.
Trade Compliance (“Circuit Breaker”)
Some critics believe that the law’s expanded farm support increases the likelihood
that the United States will exceed its URAA limits ($19.1 billion per year in trade-
distorting subsidies). To allay such concerns, the law’s drafters included, in Title I (the
commodity title), a requirement that the Secretary of Agriculture, to the maximum extent
practicable, make adjustments in domestic farm support to ensure that subsidies do not
exceed the limits. Some have questioned the feasibility of implementing this provision –
the so-called “circuit breaker” – and how it could be applied equitably among programs
Also, the law’s expanded farm supports have caused some critics here and abroad to
question the sincerity of the U.S. proposal, in ongoing global trade negotiations, to further
reduce all countries’ trade-distorting farm policies. Defenders counter that the United
States has remained within its URAA limits and is not likely to exceed them in the future,
and, furthermore, that so long as the European Union and others heavily subsidize their
farmers, the United States should not unilaterally cut back on aid. (See CRS Report
RL30612, Farm Support Programs and World Trade Commitments.)