From the Desk of the CEO: January 2024

The new year is just a few weeks old, and our team at Food Export has been diligently preparing its Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP) application for its early February deadline! This application is destined for submission to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and is a significant endeavor. Securing this funding could dramatically expand the reach of small- and medium-sized suppliers in key markets across the globe, unlocking key opportunities for Food Export and its stakeholders.  

Reflecting on the words of the USDA Secretary since this program was announced, I am deeply committed to leveraging this initiative to empower businesses across our 23 member states. 

“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,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a release in November 2023. “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.” 

At Food Export, we understand the importance of a strong global presence for American food producers. We work to offer programs that maximize the benefits and minimize the strategic, operational, and financial risks for smaller companies. We strive to create a global network of importers, distributors, manufacturers, and retailers who actively seek out the finest products and producers from our regions. 

RAPP is designed to encourage our industry to work in regions that have not seen the emphasis that some of the USA’s major trading partners have seen. In particular, the African continent, South and Southeast Asia, and the other geographies mentioned by Secretary Vilsack.  RAPP funds would allow Food Export programs to scale and adapt to these new locations of emphasis, making it more streamlined for suppliers in our regions to learn, grow, and promote.  

Take for example the impact this would have on bringing buyers to your doorstep or qualifying leads.  With amplification from RAPP, we envision a day where suppliers attending Buyers Missions will generate new business from new markets or get foreign leads vetted by an expanded team of In-Market Representatives.  We can deepen our bench of subject matter experts so that Midwestern and Northeastern businesses get the insights and support they need. 

I have learned to appreciate that efforts of this scope and schedule ask a lot of staff and organizations, even when the benefits are potentially transformative.  We are fortunate to have strong, dedicated leaders in key roles.  At the helm is Teresa Miller, Food Export’s Chief Program and Partnership Officer.  She brings extensive experience in maximizing USDA funding for export growth, and she has built a great team to skillfully craft this strategy and bring it to life. 

While this endeavor progresses, it’s business as usual — and then some.  We have upcoming events at shows like Natural Products Expo West, Seafood Expo North America, ANTAD in Mexico, and FOODEX in Japan.  Check out Events • Food Export Association of the Midwest USA and Food Export USA–Northeast for a complete list of events. Food Export staff, members, and partners near and far all deserve major kudos for their efforts in driving new growth via RAPP while continuing to deliver on our quality programs.   

This balancing act is guided by our “north stars” — our Mission, Values, and Vision.  If we are empowering small- and medium-sized businesses in our region to export their food and agricultural products, then we are on the right track. 

If you have questions or comments about RAPP, please send me an email at Just put Attn: Brendan Wilson in the subject line. I’m eager to open a dialogue or make sure you know how to take advantage of what’s here (and next) at Food Export.  As we head towards a February deadline, you will find us diligently at work, charting new courses for Food Export and the value it creates for American food producers.  

 Your involvement is vital to our shared success – together, let’s embrace this opportunity and open new doors to new markets, new growth, and a prosperous future for our regions and the communities that call them home. 

Brendan Wilson 

CEO/Executive Director 

Your Input Matters: If there is a topic you wish for me to discuss in this space, let me know. You can reach me at Just put Attn: Brendan Wilson in the subject line. 

Listen to Our Podcast!

Episode 101 – Food Export 101 with Brendan Wilson

Feb 14, 2024 – 27:34 MIN