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USDA opens applications for $300 mln to help exporters break into new markets

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday said it would start accepting applications for an initial $300 million in funding to help U.S. agricultural exporters break into new markets outside China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will make the announcement during a meeting of the President's Export Council at the White House, kicking off the first year of the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP) established by USDA in October.

The RAPP program will provide a total of $1.2 billion over five years to non-profit U.S. agricultural trade groups, State Regional Trade Groups (SRTGs), U.S. agricultural cooperatives, and other state agencies to help them tap new markets and increase market share.

“It takes significant investment to open and develop new export markets and this new fund will be dedicated to helping provide that start-up capital so that American exporters can diversify their markets and create new opportunities,” Vilsack said in a statement.

U.S. exports of agricultural and related products hit a record $213 billion in 2022, with China acounting for a record 19.2% of the total value, mainly through purchases of soybeans, cotton and beef. Canada, Mexico and Japan rounded out the top four at 16%, 14% and 8%, respectively, of the 2022 U.S. export total.

Vilsack said the middle class was growing in many places across South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, driving demand for high quality products.

"In order to capture those markets from our competitors we need to have a presence, address barriers, and showcase America’s high-quality, agricultural products across the world.”

USDA said diversification would focus on three regions - Africa; Latin America and the Caribbean; and South and Southeast Asia - in the first phase of the new program, with $25 million set aside specifically for work in Africa.

USDA also recently announced it would host trade missions to an array of countries in 2024, including South Korea, India, Colombia, Vietnam and Morocco. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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