A monthly bulletin with special insight and advice from the Branded Team.
Branded Tip of the Month
This series of How-To videos will guide you step-by-step through the different stages of the Branded Program, from Pre-Qualification and Application Forms to Reimbursements and Evaluations.
Food Export's Branded Program team is here to help!
Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions we get.
Search the list and see if your question has been answered.
Q: Is travel/lodging to domestic tradeshows eligible for reimbursement?
A: No, domestic travel is not eligible for reimbursement.
Q: Why can’t I write in US tradeshows in my application like I can for other countries?
A: The USDA issues a list of specific U.S.-based tradeshows with a large international presence which are eligible for reimbursement. These are the only U.S. tradeshows that we can reimburse, so other tradeshows do not need to be added.
Q: When the trade show or trade mission activity is over, can I extend my trip and stay a little longer than the actual dates of the activity?
A: 1.) Eligible days for reimbursement of lodging and per diem expenses are two days before the start of the show, and one day after the show. Your flights can be within a reasonable travel window. 2.) If you wish to deviate from the eligible travel dates of the activity, when you book a flight, kindly save a comparable flight quote showing the cost of your trip without side travel. Submit the comparable quote with your claim submission of travel reimbursement. Food Export will reimburse the lesser of the actual ticket flown or the quote for eligible travel. 3.) When in doubt of travel claims, please contact the Branded Program team to discuss your trip before you book. We are happy to review your proposed travel itinerary and answer any questions you may have.
Q: Can I exhibit at a show in my overseas agent booth?
A: You may exhibit in your distributor’s booth, but if there is a USA pavilion at the show, you must request an exemption, in writing, in advance of the show.
Q: Will my overseas agent travel cost be reimbursed?
A: Yes, but you are only eligible for travel reimbursements for the cost of two travelers.
Q: Should I submit all of my original reimbursement documentation to Food Export - Midwest or Food Export - Northeast?
A: No. Always keep original documents for your files and submit copies of all documentation to Food Export-Midwest or Food Export Northeast. We may require original documentation at our discretion. Also, you are required to maintain your Branded Program files for five years following the end of the Program Year. These files are subject to audit by Food Export-Midwest, Food Export-Northeast, or the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the USDA.
Q: If my importer is paying a vendor for an activity and then invoicing me, what is the deadline for the importer making the payment?
A: The deadline for importer payments to vendors is January 31st of the following year. For example, if the activity was completed in December of 2021, the importer must pay by January 31st of 2022. Your U.S.-based company can issue a credit after that IF the importer has paid for the activity by that date. We cannot make ANY exceptions to this rule.
Q: Can we submit an expense that was invoiced in one program year, but paid for in the next year?
A: If your activity was invoiced at the end of the previous year, you should submit the expense for the year when the payment was made. We will then require a statement from the vendor confirming why they had to invoice you early. These claims are approved or denied on a case-by-case basis.
Q: Why isn’t my tradeshow an option for submitting a travel claim?
A: If a tradeshow doesn’t appear in the drop-down list when trying to submit a claim, you need to submit a pre-travel notification. This should be done before you travel. If you did not do this before the trip, please contact the Branded Program team. Also check to see if your tradeshow was not approved as eligible for travel reimbursement.
Q: My company pays our importer through a credit note which they then use against their next product order. Is that type of payment acceptable?
A: Yes, we accept payments by credit notes or credit memos. We will require the credit note, the product order, the bill of lading, and if there is a leftover balance, proof of a payment from your importer covering that balance.
Q: Why is a prequalification required?
A: Pre-qualifications certify that a company and its products meet all requirements to participate in the Branded Program and may receive federal funding. The process consists of confirming company information on full-time employees, parents/subsidiaries, company sales, Dunn & Bradstreet profile, NAICS code, Federal Tax ID number, and a company/employee cross-check in the System for Award Management (SAM) database.
Q: When filling out the application, should I put a tradeshow under the market where it takes place, or the market where we get sales?
A: You should always put the tradeshow under the market where it happens, even if you don’t make sales there.
Q: What are the fees to participate in the Branded Program?
A: There are 2 fees. The first fee is the application fee, the second fee is the 6% administrative fee based on the approval allocation. For example: if a company is approved for $10,000 in allocation ($20,000 in estimated expenses), it would be 6% of $10,000 which = $600. All fees to participate are required and are non-refundable and non-transferable.
Q: How long does it take to get reimbursed?
A: Once a request for reimbursement is received, we process it in the order received. If no other additional information/documentation is needed, we strive to reimburse all approved expenses within 30 business days. This takes into account the time it takes to request and receive your company's funding from the Foreign Agricultural service (FAS) of the USDA. If additional documentation is needed, you will be notified and given 10 business days to acknowledge our request. All claims will be denied if they are still missing the requested information 60 days after the request has been made. Your reimbursement request can be processed more quickly if you:
- Upload all documents in a complete and orderly way in our online portal when submitting your reimbursement claim.
- Provide English translations for all foreign language documents.
- Do not wait until the end of the year to submit all of your reimbursement claims.
- Submit claims within 60 days after the expense is incurred
Q: Do I have to wait until February to submit claims?
A: You don't! February is the deadline to submit claims, but it is advised that you submit your claims as soon as you have completed the activity and have all of the documentation in hand. Remember Food Export is under no obligation to reimburse claims that are submitted after 60 days of completion of your activity.
Q : Why didn't I get my paid full reimbursement?
A : You can always find the reason why your claim was denied or partially denied in your Branded Program portal. Some frequent reasons for full or partial denial are:
- U.S. origin statement is missing from the proof of activity documentation
- Insufficient or missing documentation
- Expenses were for ineligible activities
- Expenses were incurred for an ineligible or non-approved country
- Transactions were not documented by cancelled check, wire transfer, bank statement or credit card statement (invoices paid with off-invoicing are not reimbursable)
- Payment was made before your program approval date
Q: Why do I have to complete a Branded Program evaluation, even if I did not claim reimbursement or make any sales?
A: The evaluation is a requirement of your participation in the Branded Program and helps us continue to offer this program year after year. This form compares results with stated goals and allows you to make comments about the impact of the Branded Program. The form is required, kept strictly confidential, and used to determine the effectiveness of the Branded Program in raising the level of U.S. exports. This form is available online in your Branded Program Portal. Reimbursements and future allocations may be withheld until complete evaluations are submitted.
Q: Can I get reimbursed for Food Export services like Food Show PLUS! ?
A: No. Fees to participate in Food Export activities are not eligible for reimbursement. However, if you send samples to a buyer you met at a Food Export event, we can reimburse for the cost to send those samples.
Q: How many times can I claim reimbursement for modifying my labels to be foreign-market compliant?
A: There is no limit on the number of years that you can claim reimbursement for foreign-compliant labels, and you can claim for the same SKU multiple years in a row. We will reimburse up to a 1-year supply of packaging per program year.
Q: Can my overseas agent be reimbursed for expenses?
A: Yes, but not directly. The overseas agent must be paid by the U.S. company by check, wire transfer, bank transfer, credit card, or credit memo for at least 50% of the total invoiced amount. After paying the agent, the U.S. company can submit the agent’s expenses for Branded Program reimbursement. Also, all agent expenses are subject to the same eligibility requirements as the U.S. company.
Q: Does the U.S. origin statement have to be in English, or can it be in a foreign language?
A: The U.S. origin statement does not have to be in English, it can be in a foreign language. If it is in a foreign language, please identify it (circle it) on claim paperwork.
Q: Does the U.S. origin statement have to be printed on give-aways to be eligible for reimbursement?
A: Yes, and your company name/brand name must be printed on the item.
Q: My booth posters didn’t carry a USA origin statement but I displayed a “Made in the USA” sign. Why didn’t I get reimbursed for the design and printing of the posters?
A: The U.S. origin statement must be incorporated into the design of all graphic and printed materials to be eligible for reimbursement.
Q: I made changes to my website and social media sites. Is it eligible for reimbursement?
A: Yes, if the Website and Social media advertising clearly targets a foreign market. All activities must have a U.S. origin statement present.
Q: Can I be reimbursed for advertising and similar promotions in the USA?
A: No. The only reimbursable expenses in the U.S. or its possessions are those related to exhibiting at an approved tradeshow held in the U.S.
Q: We created our promotional literature in-house. Why can’t we get reimbursed for the cost of the design software, ink cartridges, and the paper? It is cheaper than using an outside vendor.
A: We can never reimburse for office supplies since there is no way to document that paper, ink cartridges, etc., were used only for the creation of eligible literature and graphics.
Q: Are product samples, costs of labels, or packaging for samples eligible for reimbursement?
A: The cost of labels and packaging for samples is eligible, but the cost of the actual samples is not.
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Food Export–Midwest and Food Export–Northeast prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, familial/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity. (Not all bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations or alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact us. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.
To file a program discrimination complaint, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027, found online https://www.ascr.usda.gov/filing-program-discrimination-complaint-usda-customer.
Food Export–Midwest and Food Export–Northeast reserve the right to deny services to any firm or individual which, in the sole opinion of Food Export–Midwest and Food Export–Northeast, does not comply with FAS, MAP or Food Export–Midwest and Food Export–Northeast regulations or policies, or otherwise offer the best opportunity to achieve its mission of increasing food and agricultural exports. Submission of any false or misleading information may be grounds for rejection or subsequent revocation of any application or participation. Food Export–Midwest and Food Export–Northeast are equal opportunity employers and providers.