On November 29th, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Notice of Funding Opportunity for the first tranche of funding under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP). USDA is providing up to $300 million in funding in its first year to support eligible projects that enable exporters to break into new markets and increase market share in growth markets.
Secretary Vilsack announced the Notice of Funding Opportunity at the President’s Export Council, after announcing the establishment of RAPP in October as part of a bipartisan request from the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. In total, RAPP is a $1.2 billion program made possible through the Commodity Credit Corporation, which will be made available over five years.
“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,” said Secretary Vilsack. “There are many regions of the world – in South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa – where the middle class is growing and the desire for high quality products is increasing. 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.”
RAPP funds are available to non-profit U.S. agricultural trade organizations, non-profit State Regional Trade Groups (SRTGs), U.S. agricultural cooperatives, and state agencies that conduct approved market development activities to foster expanded exports and market diversification by encouraging the development, maintenance, and expansion of diverse commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural commodities and products.
Market diversification is an important tool for maximizing growth opportunities for U.S. agriculture, as well to hedge the risk of market contraction and general volatility in the global marketplace. USDA is committed to promoting export opportunities in diverse and non-traditional markets, ensuring that U.S. agricultural commodities and products are available to diverse consumer groups. Therefore, the current top export markets will be ineligible for first tranche of RAPP funding. Those top ineligible markets are: China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Canada, Mexico, and the European Union.
All other markets will therefore be eligible, with the exception of those countries for which sanctions or other legal barriers are in place. Further, the following three regions have been identified for special emphasis through the first tranche RAPP: 1) Africa, 2) Latin American/Caribbean, and 3) South/Southeast Asia. Out of the total funding available for the first tranche of RAPP, USDA will specifically set aside $25 million to fund activities in Africa.
Future tranches of funds will be released in future years to ensure that the focus of funding can be adapted to changing trade environments and market conditions.
RAPP awards will be generally granted for a period of performance of five years, with an expected period of performance starting June 1, 2024, and ending on September 30, 2029.
Applications are due by 5 p.m. ET on Feb. 2, 2024. Additional information on RAPP is available at grants.gov.
USDA also recently announced its planned agribusiness trade missions for 2024, which will include visits to the following markets: Seoul, Korea; New Delhi, India; Vancouver, Canada; Bogota, Colombia; Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (with buyers from Thailand), and Casablanca, Morocco (with buyers from Senegal and Francophone West Africa).