WASHINGTON — The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced May 21 the allocation of $300 million in funding to 66 American organizations representing the best interests of food producers and farmers across the country. The funding was awarded through the USDA’s Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP), which aims to support export market expansion for American-made products abroad.

Two pet food associations — the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and the Pet Food Institute (PFI) — were among the recipients of this funding.

“USDA and the entire Biden-Harris Administration are focused on creating more, new and better markets for US producers and agribusinesses, and exports are a critical part of that effort,” said Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary. “By enabling US exporters to expand their footprint in diverse and dynamic new markets, RAPP will help make them more competitive and resilient in an increasingly volatile global trading environment.”

The AFIA received $800,000 through RAPP for the coming year, and PFI received nearly $2.05 million in funding.

“We thank the USDA for recognizing AFIA as the leading authority in the animal feed, feed ingredient and pet food trade,” said Constance Cullman, president and chief executive officer of the AFIA. “This support will enable us to expand our efforts in developing and expanding export markets for US animal food products. We look forward to leveraging this support to enhance the competitiveness of US animal food in emerging markets and contribute to the broader goal of agricultural export diversification.”

According to the AFIA, the total export value of feed, feed ingredients and pet food products came to $13.4 billion in value and 19.8 million tonnes. This represents a significant portion of the United States’ total agricultural exports, making market expansion exploration important for the economy at large.

“We are eager to invest our $2,045,000 award in efforts to enhance our market share in those distinct and vibrant markets where the desire for high-quality, complete and balanced pet food and pet treats is increasing,” said Dana Brooks, president and CEO of PFI. “RAPP opens up new avenues for US exporters to pursue given the increasingly unpredictable global marketplace. PFI is grateful to the USDA for its continual support of market access programming and advancing the interests of the pet food industry.”

Vilsack established RAPP in the fall of 2023 with $1.2 million dedicated to supporting export market expansion in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and South and Southeast Asia. According to the USDA, these markets reflect areas where “consumer demand and purchasing power are growing,” and serve to diversify the United States’ export market opportunities beyond traditional partnerships with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and China.

“We know the potential is out there, but it takes time and money to grow new markets,” Vilsack continued. “USDA is pleased to be able to provide the start-up capital to help tap into these opportunities, because if we are serious about reversing the decline of small and mid-sized farms, and building wealth that stays in rural communities, it’s crucial that we create and sustain diverse market opportunities abroad as well as at home.”

In January, the AFIA and PFI received $170,000 and $1.3 million in federal funding, respectively, through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Market Access Program (MAP). The AFIA noted it would use the funding to support market expansion for pet food products in Vietnam and China. PFI would leverage the funding to support market expansion efforts in 10 markets: Brazil, the Caribbean, Central America, China, Colombia, Mexico, the Middle East, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan.

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