U.S. Exporter Assistance
Computer Revolution at FAS
By Harold Kanarek
In the past
decade, much has changed in the way government agencies
deliver services. FAS is no exception.
The FAS Home Page
FAS launched its Web site in 1995, more and more FAS
customers access information and transact business
online. Currently, almost 20,000 visitors come to the
site each business day. During 2005, total visits
numbered some 6.1 million.
Starting out as one of many tools to communicate
information, the Web site has become the primary means
of communicating information, and, increasingly, as a
way to transact business. Today, the FAS Web site
provides comprehensive news as well as the latest
commodity import and export data and analysis. In
addition, there is information on trade negotiations,
exporter assistance, trade forecasts, and production and
crop estimates. Much of this crucial market information
is now available in searchable statistical databases
such as the BICO (bulk, intermediate, and
foods and beverages reports) and the U.S. Trade Internet
U.S. Trade Internet System
Statistics on Commodities
FAS added a PS&D (production, supply and distribution)
database to its online offerings. This database contains
current and historical USDA data on production, supply,
and distribution of agricultural commodities for the
United States and other key producing and consuming
countries. Users can select from a menu of pre-defined
tables categorized by commodity or commodity group, or
create custom queries for specific commodities,
attributes, and/or countries. The system enables
customers to view queried data on-screen or download it
as a file that can be opened in a spreadsheet.
recently the agency added a database for processed food
export groups. Users can obtain processed food export
data by country, year (1989–2005), and food groupings,
while choosing several options for data output.
One of the most important additions to the FAS Web site
over the past couple of years has been a Web-based
analytical tool called Crop Explorer. Crop Explorer
provides customers with timely, accurate crop condition
information on a global scale unavailable from any other
FAS customers can now do some of their business
and managed by PECAD (the FAS Production Estimates and
Crop Assessment Division), the Crop Explorer site
features near-real-time global crop condition
information based on satellite imagery and weather data.
Thematic maps of major crop regions depict vegetative
vigor, precipitation, temperature, and soil moisture.
Time-series charts show growing season data for specific
agro-meteorological zones. Regional crop calendars and
crop area maps are also available for selected regions
of major agricultural significance.
— It’s User-Friendly!
these dynamic information resources, FAS customers can
now do some of their business with the agency directly
online. Organizations such as export trade associations
can apply for market development grants including FMD
(Foreign Market Development Program), MAP (Market Access
Program), QSP (Quality Samples Program) and TASC
(Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program)
through a UES (Unified Export Strategy) Internet
This Web-based application virtually eliminates
paperwork and enables FAS to expedite its processing and
review of applications. Also, by using the UES,
organizations that submitted UES applications in the
past do not need to enter certain historical
information: it appears automatically in the data entry
screens. The UES also allows applicants to make
programming recommendations to FAS concerning the
Cochran Fellowship Program and export credit programs.
Applicants also have the opportunity to recommend trade
policy initiatives to FAS' International Trade Policy
Another advantage of the Web site is the ability to
apply for a sugar re-export or a dairy import license
exporters, FAS has several e-government tools. For
companies unfamiliar with exporting, FAS has an
electronic export readiness test designed to help
businesses make the critical decisions necessary before
expanding their market base to customers outside the
A searchable database, the U.S. Suppliers List,
maintained in conjunction with NASDA (National
Association of State Departments of Agriculture),
contains more than 3,800 U.S. exporters and their
products. This list helps facilitate contact between
U.S. suppliers and potential foreign buyers. The
database features more than 500 agricultural product
categories under which companies can list their
offerings. The database is used by FAS foreign and
Washington offices to help export agents, trading
companies, importers, and foreign buyers locate U.S.
suppliers. It is also used to recruit U.S. exporters to
participate in market development activities sponsored
by USDA and federal export programs.
The online GAIN (Global Agriculture Information Network)
database includes more than 23,000 reports submitted by
FAS attachés in offices aboard. The GAIN database (also
referred to as Attaché Reports) can provide U.S.
exporters the market information needed to make
intelligent export decisions. They often contain
original research on specific countries and may contain
information on both buyers and competitors.
FAIRS (Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and
Standards) is a market access searchable database that
aims to consolidate information on the technical
requirements (i.e. food laws, labeling, import
procedures, etc.) for food and agricultural imports of
A database of trade shows allows exporters to find out
about upcoming food shows, trade missions, and other
promotions in foreign markets.
GSM Online System
In August 2005, FAS launched a new Web capability to
expedite and simplify documentation for three USDA
export financing programs. The General Sales Manager
Online System enables U.S exporters and banks to submit
required documentation online, or electronically, for
the GSM-102 (Export Credit Guarantee Program), the
Supplier Credit Guarantee Program and the Facility
Guarantee Program. These programs facilitate commercial
financing of U.S. agricultural exports.
General Sales Manager Online System
system increases data reliability and reduces processing
time for the three programs, which encourage exports to
countries where credit is necessary to maintain or
increase U.S. sales, but where financing may not be
available without U.S. government guarantees. The system
also helps fulfill USDA's e-government goals by
providing online trade assistance and electronic access
to USDA loan programs.
to making programs accessible via the Internet that once
were available only in print and by mail, FAS is
providing new levels of support to U.S. exporters by
consolidating USDA’s export-related assistance and
market information with similar information from
partners in the federal and private sectors.
Now, in one location at
http://www.export.gov, exporters may identify
potential trading partners, access multi-agency
requirements for documenting, packaging, labeling, and
shipping products overseas, locate the services and
financing tools available from multiple agencies, and
access a wide variety of market research reports to
identify international business opportunities.
Harold Kanarek is a public affairs specialist in the
FAS Public Affairs Division. E-mail:
Important FAS Internet Links
Periodical reports, at
information on U.S. and world production, supply
and demand, and trade for many commodities, as
well as the latest trade policy developments and
export marketing information.
Market- and commodity-specific reports:
News releases and program announcements:
FAS Worldwide, at
is an online, time-stream magazine featuring news
about worldwide agricultural markets, trade
policy, international linkages, and food aid.
U.S. Exporter Assistance:
Programs and Opportunities:
deliver timely FAS news and Attaché Reports
directly to your desktop.
Trade Negotiations and Agreements:
Commodities and Products: