In May of 1955, one of the current members of USAEDC signed an agreement with the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) for research and development of their commodity worldwide, and became the first agricultural market development cooperator. Over the ensuing years, scores of other non-profit U.S. agricultural groups have joined in this joint public-private partnership that was to become a key factor in expanding U.S. farm markets overseas.


The roles of these cooperators had been foreseen in the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of July 1954 (P.L. 480), which recognized that American agriculture, when given the green light, would produce vastly more than the American people could consume. The Congress and others at that time recognized that the United States had a bounty that should be utilized not only for the benefit of U.S. consumers but also for the growing populations in other parts of the world. The potential for commercial agricultural sales was there; all that remained was to develop the markets for the abundance of U.S. farms.


Thus, soon after the passage of P.L. 480 - and following exhaustive studies of the appropriate role of government in expanding farm trade - the USDA initiated the market development program, making the crucial decision to work with non-profit agricultural producer associations representing U.S. farmers whenever practicable. This decision resulted in a most effective mix of industry and government expertise and financial resources.


Cooperators are non-profit organizations representing producers and other sectors of agriculture in a joint program with FAS aimed at developing foreign markets. Each cooperator focuses on markets for products with which its members are concerned, with the overall result of expanding total U.S. farm trade. Today, there are approximately 85 of these groups working with FAS on a continuing basis in a variety of programs.


As the Foreign Market Development program expanded and its benefits became apparent, FAS introduced another program - the Targeted Export Assistance (TEA) program - in 1986 to augment the efforts of the cooperators. This program enlarged the group of participating agricultural groups (participants) and was intended to encourage the further development of the markets through generic promotion efforts and cooperative efforts with overseas processors. In time, this program became the Market Promotion Program (MPP) and is currently the Market Access Program (MAP).


Reflecting this enlarged constituency, cooperators/participants are enthusiastic promoters of U.S. farm products. Acting in the interest of their members - as well as for the general benefit of U.S. agriculture - they work with foreign government representativess; farm, manufacturing and importing organizations; and end users in various programs that directly benefit U.S. farmers and U.S. agricultural exports.


What began as an ad-hoc committee of cooperators in 1954 became more formalized in 1980 with the establishment of a permanent office to provide service to both members and the Foreign Agricultural Service. Agricultural trade and producer groups, recognizing the program as one of the most important in agriculture, joined together to form the council. Its mission was to present a unified approach and to serve as liaison with government agencies in voicing support for efforts and programs designed to promote foreign market demand for U.S. agricultural products.


USAEDC formalized the organization in 1983 when on October 31st, it incorporated in the District of Columbia under the District of Columbia Non-Profit Corporation Act. It has been serving the needs of its membership, which has grown from the initial handful in 1954 to approximately 85 members today.  


Portions of this are reprinted from "Team Effort Boosts U.S. Farm Exports" by Darwin Stole, Chairman, Agricultural Cooperator Council for Market Development