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FAS representative discusses opportunities for trade capacity building in agriculture

Published May 3, 2017
Jocelyn Brown discusses building trade capacity.

As part of the College of ACES International Seminar Series, the Office of International Programs hosted Jocelyn G. Brown, a Deputy Administrator for the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), who spoke to students, faculty, and staff about “Trade Capacity Building in Agriculture and Opportunities for Engagement with the FAS.” She was joined by Jim Suits, an International Program Specialist with FAS.

The Foreign Agricultural Service leads the United States Department of Agriculture’s efforts to help developing countries improve their agricultural systems and build their trade capacity. The agency also administers food assistance programs that benefit people in need around the world.

Brown explained, “The FAS links U.S. agriculture to the world to enhance export opportunities and global food security through three strategic pillars: Trade Promotion, Trade Policy, and Trade Capacity Building.”

What exactly is Trade Capacity Building?

Brown defined “trade capacity building” as “technical assistance that results in an improvement in the ability of a beneficiary country to participate in international markets and trade.” She said trade capacity building is “mutually beneficial” because it allows access to broader markets, increased efficiencies, and greater food security.

An explosion in global middle class and their demands for better quality of food and more protein have revolutionized agricultural systems, she said.

“Opportunities exist abroad because the gross domestic product for developing countries is projected to grow at more than double the rate of developed countries,” she said.

To build trade capacity, the FAS has identified five thematic priorities: Post-harvest loss reduction (including food waste), climate-smart agriculture, nutrition, market information systems (improving quality and analysis of data), and compliance with international policies and trade organizations to protect from spread of pests, diseases, and contaminants.

She noted some additional emerging challenges including how to get electricity to farmers in developing countries and the increasing number of displaced people (refugees) in the world and the resulting strain on resources, for example, water resources in Jordan.

FAS uses the best technical skills available, Brown said, to implement its programs to achieve its priorities and address emerging issues. These resources may include universities, like Illinois, international organizations, foreign governments, and consulting firms.

The FAS links with universities for short and long term technical expertise, to implement activities, or innovative applied research, and to train the next generation.

Brown mentioned the following three programs specifically (click titles for more information) as of interest to faculty members: 

Quality Samples Program (QSP)

The QSP enables potential customers around the world to discover the quality and benefits of U.S. agricultural products. The program focuses on processors and manufacturers rather than consumers, and QSP projects should benefit an entire industry or commodity rather than a specific company or product. Projects should focus on developing a new market or promoting a new use for the U.S. product.

Emerging Markets Program (EMP)

The Emerging Markets Program (EMP) helps U.S. organizations promote exports of U.S. agricultural products to countries that have -- or are developing -- market-oriented economies and that have the potential to be viable commercial markets.

Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC)

The Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program provides funding to U.S. organizations for projects that address sanitary, phytosanitary and technical barriers that prohibit or threaten the export of U.S. specialty crops. Eligible activities include seminars and workshops, study tours, field surveys, pest and disease research, and pre-clearance programs. Eligible crops include all cultivated plants and their products produced in the United States except wheat, feed grains, oilseeds, cotton, rice, peanuts, sugar and tobacco.

A comprehensive list of FAS programs can be found here: https://www.fas.usda.gov/programs

Brown and Suits concluded the presentation by encouraging researchers to reach out to the USDA about their ideas for furthering trade capacity building.

“We greatly value continued and new connections between institutions and researchers, and even if we don’t have funding or a relevant program, we will try to make connections,” Brown said.