Expanded opportunities for U.S. beef exports were top-of-mind for thousands of cattle producers and other beef industry leaders who gathered in San Antonio this week for the annual Cattle Industry Convention. Addressing the convention’s opening general session, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stressed the importance of the U.S.-Japan trade agreement, which brought tariffs on U.S. beef cuts and variety meat in line with those imposed on major competitors.
“For the beef cattle industry, Japan is a big deal,” Perdue said. “They’re a huge consumer and huge lover of U.S. beef. What we’ve done with Japan is open that market up with a bilateral relationship. We’re going to be treated like other beef producers and when we’re treated equally, these folks out here can win.”
Perdue also expressed confidence that the recently signed Phase One trade agreement will finally deliver reliable access for U.S. beef in China.
“We were excited about getting beef back into China for the first time in about 13 years, but then it kind of got caught up in all the spittin’ and spattin’ over the trade disruptions there,” Perdue said. “But I think we’ll see that market grow with the Phase One agreement, with the big deal being that we got non-tariff barriers removed for U.S. beef.”
At a session highlighting recent activities funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom thanked producers for their unwavering support of international marketing, even when facing significant trade obstacles.
Halstrom summarized some of the recent successes the Beef Checkoff has supported in international markets, including an expanded presence for U.S. beef in Japan’s enormous convenience store sector, the conversion of Costco-Korea’s chilled beef offerings from Australian to U.S. beef and the promotion of U.S. beef liver in Peru as an important source of iron.
At a meeting of the Beef Checkoff Program’s Export Growth Committee, USMEF Chairman Cevin Jones, a cattle feeder from Eden, Idaho, told committee members that while last year’s beef exports were below the record levels of 2018, he expects an impressive rebound in 2020.
“When we were here a year ago, we were facing some headwinds and trade wars, and things looked a little bit bleak,” Jones said. “But there are lot of exciting things going on now in the export world and 2020 is going to be a fantastic year – we’re going to get exports up.”
Halstrom and other USMEF staff members updated the committee on USMEF promotional strategies and activities in individual markets, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico and Latin America. The Phase One trade agreement with China was a major focus of the meeting, with members taking strong interest in how the agreement could expand opportunities for U.S. beef in the world’s largest and fastest growing beef import market.
Jesse Austin, USMEF vice president of marketing, recapped the market access gains for U.S. beef in the U.S.-Japan trade agreement and explained that the agreement’s tariff rate reductions will also allow the U.S. industry to better capitalize on Japan’s removal of the 30-month cattle age limit on U.S. beef, which took place in May 2019.
John Hinners, USMEF vice president of industry relations, recapped the remarkable growth of U.S. beef exports to Korea, which set another new record in 2019 at $1.84 billion. He noted that with continued momentum in the retail, foodservice and institutional sectors, Korea will likely join Japan as a $2 billion destination for U.S. beef in 2020.
Scott Reynolds, USMEF director of marketing programs, discussed USMEF marketing activities in Mexico, Latin America and Europe. He explained that with a U.S.-specific share of the European Union’s duty-free high-quality beef quota, U.S. beef will enjoy renewed growth opportunities in the EU. Reynolds also highlighted the USMEF Latin American Product Showcase, which has helped the U.S. meat industry greatly expand its customer base in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The 10th edition of the showcase will be held June 17-18 in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Throughout the convention, USMEF saw steady traffic at its trade show booth, where attendees from across the nation learned about global marketing efforts for U.S. beef and the benefits exports deliver for producers.