The Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program (FMD), both administered by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), help promote U.S. agricultural products - including corn and value-added corn products - in key overseas markets. The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) represents corn, barley and grain sorghum producers in oversees markets using grower funds supplemented by funds from these two important market development programs. For current activities of the Grains Council, visit their website.

This on-the-ground presence is vital. The U.S. corn industry is constantly marketing the advantages of U.S. grain. We listen to and learn from our customers what they want and need. The U.S. corn industry must continually educate foreign buyers about the superior quality and reliability of U.S. grains. We are the people these foreign buyers know and trust. This can't be accomplished from Washington - it has to be done on the ground, in country, day after day. Building trust and lasting relationships through direct experience with your customer base - it's the same in any business venture.

These relationships are invaluable when corn producers face challenges such as recent concerns regarding biotechnology. Through the efforts of both NCGA and USGC, corn growers are working to educate government and industry about the benefits of biotech products and the safety of the technology.

FMD funds also support our ongoing trade servicing efforts, enabling us to educate buyers worldwide how to buy quality products from the United States. Without FMD support, we couldn't operate our technical programs - demonstration farms, feeding trials and other initiatives - that have enabled us to build overseas markets for the last 40-plus years.

Congress reauthorized both programs as part of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. The law provides a ten-year increase of $650 million for MAP, and a $67 million increase for FMD. Cooperators will receive $34.5 million per year, up from $27.5 million annually under current law and MAP will increase to $200 million annually in 2007.

For more information on FMD and MAP, visit the Foreign Agriculture Service website.