USMEF Exporter Committee Report


by Homero Recio, Chair

The USMEF Exporter Committee met on May 26 during the USMEF Board of Directors Meeting and Product Showcase in St. Louis. USMEF staff liaison Paul Clayton opened the meeting by summarizing three USMEF resolutions that were scheduled for sunset at this meeting. Staff recommended that the committee take the following actions:

The first resolution was on regionalization and compartmentalization of animal diseases. Staff recommendation was to allow this resolution to sunset, and the committee forwarded this recommendation to the USMEF Resolutions Committee and Executive Committee.

The second resolution was on completion of the USDA-FSIS Public Health Information System (PHIS) Export Module. Staff recommended that this resolution be extended for another five years, which only required a date change in the text of the resolution. This recommendation was also advanced.

The third resolution was on science-based trade. Staff recommended that this resolution be extended for another five years, but with some specific amendments:

• The sunsetting resolution referred only to the European Union, but the suggested amendment added “and some other countries.”
• The resolution referred only to production technologies, but as amended it would cover production and processing technologies.
• The resolution referred to ractopamine, but was amended to include all beta agonists.
• Pathogen reduction treatments (PRTs) were also added to the resolution.
• A reference to the Meat Industry International Stewardship Advisory Council (MIISAC) was also added to the resolution.

The Exporter Committee advanced this amended version of the resolution for consideration. The following day, consistent with the Exporter Committee’s recommendations, the USMEF Executive Committee and Board of Directors allowed the resolution on regionalization and compartmentalization of animal diseases to sunset and extended the other resolutions as amended. The only change was to strike bovine somatotrophin (BST) from the technologies listed in the science-based trade resolution. The full texts of these resolutions are available on the USMEF website.

The committee was pleased to welcome Jonathan Cordone, USDA deputy under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, for additional remarks following his keynote address the previous day. He gave the committee an overview of the significant benefits the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) offers for U.S. agriculture and an update on efforts to gain congressional approval of the agreement. Cordone also gave a progress report on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, noting that the economic and political situation in Europe has impacted efforts to complete the agreement.

“The Europeans are facing an economic crisis, a migrant crisis and a bit of an identity crisis,” he explained. “But those factors cut both ways. On one hand, it makes it harder for us to negotiate a deal with the European Commission. On the other hand, it’s more important than ever for the Europeans to actually get a deal done.”

Cordone added that the Obama administration is keenly aware of the importance of making meaningful agricultural market access gains through TTIP, or the agreement will never gather enough support to gain congressional approval.

Cordone was asked about the status of the position of USDA deputy undersecretary for trade. He said a review of the position’s scope and responsibilities is in progress, and welcomed specific feedback on how this position can be beneficial for the meat industry (the committee then authorized a staff directive to collect and provide this information). Cordone also reiterated that the administration continues to work “non-stop” on gaining access for U.S. beef in China. Upcoming regulatory steps and activities related to this effort were discussed by Cordone and other USDA officials participating in the meeting.

USDA’s Anne Dawson (Foreign Agricultural Service), Jessica Forshee (Food Safety and Inspection Service) and Diana Turnbull (Agricultural Marketing Service) gave the committee valuable information on a wide range of market access issues. First they discussed progress toward reopening Saudi Arabia to U.S. beef. The market had closed in 2012 following a BSE case in California and this was a significant setback for the U.S. industry, which had exported more than $30 million in beef to Saudi Arabia the previous year. We recently learned that the Saudi Food and Drug Administration has lifted the ban on U.S. beef. However, shipments cannot resume until USDA makes necessary revisions to the Export Verification Program and updates the FSIS Export Library.

USDA also discussed developments regarding U.S.-Brazil beef trade. Brazil has requested that the U.S. accept fresh/frozen beef from 14 of its states, while the U.S. is seeking full access to the Brazilian market, consistent with it negligible risk classification for BSE. The requisite audits of U.S. plants were completed July 15, which was a key step forward in order for the U.S. to resume exporting to Brazil.

Committee members also received information on the Indonesian market, including an update on scheduling audits for plants seeking eligibility. Indonesia was once a top 15 volume market for U.S. beef and a top 10 market for beef variety meat, but exports have slowed in recent years due to import quotas and other regulatory obstacles.

Regarding lamb access to Japan, USDA shared that the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) is in the final stages of updating its lamb import requirements for countries that have had BSE. A final rule is expected from MHLW later this summer and while there will still be additional steps necessary before U.S. lamb is eligible for Japan, USDA is hopeful that the market can open before the end of the year.

USDA has proposed a pilot program for exporting processed meat products to China, beginning with pork. Plant eligibility and documentation requirements for the program were discussed, but the timeline for the pilot program to launch is not yet established.

Pathogen reduction treatments (PRTs) for Japan and Singapore were also discussed. Japan’s Food Safety Commission completed its review for peroxyacetic acid (PAA), and a public comment period was opened July 4 (comments are being accepted through Aug. 2). Meanwhile Singapore’s list of approved PRTs remains very limited, but regulators in Singapore have agreed to review a list of additional compounds used by the U.S. industry.

With regard to the PHIS Export Module, USDA reported that a final rule would likely published in June. It was in fact published June 29, and additional information on this proceeding is available from the USMEF website.

The first test shipments of U.S. beef and pork recently arrived in South Africa. USDA reported that the beef products cleared with only a few documentation issues surfacing. The news was less positive with regard to pork, as South Africa rejected some cuts due to the presence of lymphatic material. USDA staff will continue to work with their counterparts in South Africa to resolve the discrepancy between the two country’s understanding on lymphatic material removal in unrestricted cuts and to avoid future incidents of detained or rejected shipments.

Joe Schuele of USMEF provided an update on two key ocean transportation issues: the new container weight verification rules that took effect July 1, and efforts to achieve port labor contract extensions on both coasts. Just before this meeting, the International Maritime Organization had called for a 90-day period of flexible enforcement of the container weight verification rules, easing exporters’ concerns to some degree but still leaving many questions about how the rule would be implemented. So far in July, the rule appears to have caused few problems for meat exporters, though it is important to note that we are still in the flexible enforcement period. On the East and Gulf Coasts, port operators are negotiating with the longshoremen’s union on a contract that would go beyond their current September 2018 expiration date, but progress has been somewhat slow. On the West Coast, the union has not yet responded to port operators’ request for early negotiations on a contract extension.

To close the meeting, USMEF staff members Erin Borror, Jessica Strutzel and Cheyenne McEndaffer presented on USMEF’s efforts to expand and diversify destinations for U.S. beef livers. This is especially important due to closure of the Russian market, which has resulted in a heavy concentration of U.S. livers being shipped to Egypt. More details and slides from this presentation are available online.

As you can see, the Exporter Committee covered much ground in a very limited amount of time. I want to thank the USDA officials who joined the meeting and the committee members who asked excellent questions and provided them with valuable feedback. If you have questions or want more information on any of the issues discussed, please email Paul Clayton or call 303-623-6328.

Homero Recio is president and chief operating officer of Agri-West International. He represents the purveying/trading sector on the USMEF Executive Committee.

Reports from May 26 meetings of the USMEF Beef and Allied Industries Committee, Pork and Allied Industries Committee and Feedgrain and Oilseed Caucus were included in previous editions of the USMEF Export Newsline.