WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service (F.A.S.) projects U.S. agricultural exports to top $104.5 billion in 2010 – an increase of $7.9 billion from last year. President Obama's new National Export Initiative seeks to double the amount of U.S. exports over the next five years.

As of Aug. 1, U.S. exporters of food and agricultural products can take advantage of this momentum. The four non-profit State Regional Trade Groups (S.R.T.G.s) will accept applications for the 2011 Branded Program, a reimbursement program designed to help small businesses offset the costs of promoting their food and agricultural products overseas.

The Branded Program can reimburse U.S. companies up to half of their international marketing expenses, for items such as advertising, traveling and exhibiting at international trade shows, in-store promotions, changes to labels and packaging and more.

Program participants must be businesses classified as "small" according to Small Business Administration guidelines or agricultural cooperatives. Products eligible for Branded Program promotion must contain at least 50% U.S. agricultural ingredients and be labeled as "Product of the USA."

To apply, firms can submit a pre-qualification worksheet to the S.R.T.G. that serves the region where they are headquartered.