Steve Isaf, president and founder of Interra International, was elected USMEF chairman. Based in Atlanta, Interra International is a multinational food trading and distribution company that exports proteins to more than 80 countries. Isaf has served five years on the USMEF executive committee and is a past chairman of the USMEF exporter committee. In a dynamic and enthusiastic address to USMEF members, Isaf challenged everyone in attendance to make the commitment necessary to take the organization to new heights. Borrowing a theme from the Wynonna Judd song “Attitude,” Isaf said, “I truly believe we can choose to win or lose.”
Isaf founded Interra International in 2000, but his history with USMEF goes back nearly two additional decades.
“I have been in this industry for 32 years, and began attending USMEF meetings in 1981,” he explained. “The reason I got involved with USMEF and have supported the organization all these years is that we need the opportunity to be better represented in the international marketplace. As a small business, Interra didn’t have all the resources necessary to succeed. So being part of USMEF has really enabled us to grow markets and find new customers. It’s also given us a point where we can come together with other stakeholders to work on key issues that impact our industry.”
Isaf praised the work of outgoing USMEF Chairman Danita Rodibaugh, stating that his plans for the coming year are consistent with the path she established.
“I have to give compliments to Danita, who really started a process of engagement and issues processing,” Isaf said. “We’re going to work very hard to bring everyone together and try to achieve even better results than we currently have. The U.S. meat industry is extremely successful around the world – but just like every other industry, if we rest on our laurels we will wake up one day and find that we have fallen behind.”
Leann Saunders of Castle Rock, Colo., will serve as USMEF vice-chair. Saunders is president of IMI Global, Inc. Founded in 1995, IMI Global provides comprehensive, web-based applications for livestock verification and identification, as well as a range of livestock-related consulting services.
Roel Andriessen, senior vice president of international sales for Tyson Foods, is USMEF secretary-treasurer. Andriessen just completed a three-year term on the USMEF executive committee. He also chaired the USMEF exporter committee the past three years.
The USMEF board approved four resolutions at Friday’s meeting:
- Encouraging USDA to establish a technical veterinary team available to travel in foreign regions to assist trading partners in understanding regulations and resolving regulatory, technical and food safety issues.
- Urging the U.S. government to include market access for U.S. lamb as a priority when negotiating agreements.
- Supporting efforts to improve the U.S. government’s system for engaging importing countries to resolve red meat access issues by enhancing communication and coordination among the agencies responsible for agricultural trade.
- A resolution calling for USMEF to support efforts to enact trade terms and protocol that will allow commercially viable beef trade and to ensure that terms of trade meet industry expectations.
USMEF members also received a detailed analysis of the impact of this year’s drought on the U.S. beef and pork industries from Dr. Chris Hurt, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. He explained that drought creates havoc in the market because livestock producers don’t have sufficient time to adjust production. But despite these current difficulties, he urged producers to take a long-term outlook.
“Don’t panic about grain prices in the peak of a drought,” Hurt said.
In an informative panel discussion, USMEF staff explained the opportunities created by newly implemented free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Moderated by Jagels, the panel consisted of South Korea Director Jihae Yang, South America representative Jessica Julca and Gerardo Rodriguez, director of trade development for Central America and the Dominican Republic.
The next USMEF board of directors meeting is scheduled for May 22-24 in Washington, D.C.