U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Strategic Marketing Needed to Lead Agribusiness in International Trade

RCED-91-22: Published: Jan 22, 1991. Publicly Released: Jan 22, 1991.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) management of marketing strategies to support its role in the changing international marketplace.

GAO found that: (1) the USDA production-oriented philosophy was not well suited for providing marketing leadership; (2) policymakers were attempting to reduce or eliminate trade barriers and create a flexible farm program to allow farmers to make planting decisions on the basis of consumer needs; (3) the United States spent significantly more on developing and promoting high-value agricultural products than most of its competitors and received less return on its marketing investment; (4) USDA lacked the proactive marketing programs and activities necessary to assist agribusiness in developing more effective marketing practices; (5) the four USDA agencies with trade management responsibilities sharply differed in strategic marketing perspectives, professional skills, and degree of interagency coordination; (6) USDA lacked a departmentwide strategic marketing plan; and (7) the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) believed that the USDA management-by-objectives system's utility would remain limited without strong top management support and improved interagency coordination.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The 1990 Farm Bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a long-term agricultural trade strategy (LATS) and in doing so, to designate priority growth markets and make individual market development plans beginning October 1991. In January 1993, USDA transmitted LATS to Congress. An ongoing GGD study of FAS management will address whether LATS meets congressional intent.

    Recommendation: To create an organizational environment in which strategic marketing can be adopted, the Secretary of Agriculture should convene a forum of USDA trade-related agencies to develop a coordinated strategic plan for implementing the USDA management-by-objectives initiative to expand both foreign and domestic markets.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The 1990 Farm Bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a long-term agricultural trade strategy (LATS) and in doing so, to designate priority growth markets and make individual market development plans beginning October 1991. In January 1993, USDA transmitted LATS to Congress. An ongoing GGD study of FAS management will address whether LATS meets congressional intent.

    Recommendation: To create an organizational environment in which strategic marketing can be adopted, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the USDA trade-related agencies to adopt a strategic marketing perspective in their mission statements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAS has expanded its recruiting efforts to include specialists in international economics, marketing, and business administration, as well as agricultural economics. The trade-related agencies' strategic plans will include an evaluation of staff skills needed. In addition, USDA developed a Secretary's Management Agenda to monitor USDA progress in implementing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To create an organizational environment in which strategic marketing can be adopted, the Secretary of Agriculture should encourage USDA trade-related agencies to achieve greater diversity of international agribusiness and marketing staff skills when addressing workforce planning.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The 1990 Farm Bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a long-term agricultural trade strategy (LATS) and in doing so, to designate priority growth markets and make individual market development plans beginning October 1991. In January 1993, USDA transmitted LATS to Congress. An ongoing GGD study of FAS management will address whether LATS meets congressional intent.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should develop an integrated departmentwide strategic marketing plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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