The foreign deal-making and education is made possible through support by the farm bill, said Hamilton. “We’re facing a lot of challenges this year because of the delay … in getting a (new farm) bill passed.

“The way it works in a very competitive international marketplace is we need to make commitments to retailers, importers and distributors around the world. We need to make commitments at trade shows. A lot of these things are planned months in advance.”

Hamilton said due to a lack of new farm legislation, “we’ve been unable to make some of those commitments to our really good customers around the world.

“We have important trade shows coming up in the first quarter of 2014 in Mexico, China, Japan, Canada, the Middle East, in Europe. And we’re unable to commit to attending these shows. We’re unable to make arrangements with some of the importers and distributors on promotions of U.S. products.”

And U.S. competitors aren’t sitting still, he warned. “Some of our competitor nations –- Canada, (European nations), Brazil –- are able to make these commitments. And we’re kind of asking our customers to hold off.

“The challenge is we risk losing market share.

“Last year, when we had a similar farm bill delay, we ended up losing significant opportunities because we weren’t present at some of those events. We estimate losses last year at $10 million of actual sales at some of these events.”

What help will come for exports from having a new farm bill?

“The programs we offer at Food Export are supported entirely by MAP and fees that some of our participant companies pay,” said Hamilton. “Without that, we’re kind of on hold. It’s almost like we’re trying to run a business out of the petty cash box, waiting for some more money to come in before we can take new steps.

“Anything from education of our exporters, anything regarding commercial activities either with importers or retailers, trade shows, finding new customers overseas are all at risk until a new farm bill is passed.”