Fremark Views Meat Exports as Essential to All of U.S. Agriculture

SDCUC President David Fremark

SDCUC President David Fremark

While David Fremark is an active corn grower and president of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council (SDCUC), he brings a very diverse perspective to the USMEF Executive Committee. In addition to his grain-farming operation near Miller, S.D., Fremark is also a cow-calf operator and cattle feeder. This provides him with a firsthand perspective on the important return meat exports deliver to his bottom line.

“People always talk about adding value in agriculture,” Freemark said. “Well, when you take a raw product like grain and turn it into a protein source that can be shipped all over the world, that product goes overseas but the value stays here at home.”

“We know that domestic demand for beef, pork and lamb is rather static, but meat demand is booming in other parts of the world,” he added. “So livestock producers know that if we’re going to increase our profitability, we have to expand our presence in global markets. In turn, corn growers know that those livestock producers are our leading customers, so that’s why we view meat exports as such an important contributor to our success as well.”

Fremark said one of the most enjoyable aspects of serving in the USMEF leadership is the first-hand information and market intelligence he gains from briefings with USMEF’s foreign office staff.

“Whenever those staff members come back to the States for our USMEF meetings, they always seem very excited about the work they are doing,” he said. “They seem to be very proud of their work, and justifiably so. From what I can see, they really have an excellent understanding of what makes these markets work. Sometimes when you work with people from large organizations, they’re all about politics and appearance. My impression of USMEF staff is just the opposite – they’re all about getting it done.”

Fremark recently gained an even greater appreciation for USMEF’s work in foreign markets when he joined a delegation of leaders from the SDCUC and the Kansas Corn Commission on a tour of agricultural operations in China. The group also met with several importers and traders and got a firsthand look at the rapid growth of China’s supermarket and restaurant industries. They also visited Hong Kong and Macau, two areas that serve as significant economic hubs for international trade.

“Our briefing at the U.S. embassy with the agricultural attaché, the numerous supermarket and restaurant visits, the meetings with buyers and others active in the meat industry – those sessions were all first-rate and extremely informative,” he said. “The market intelligence we gained on that trip was firsthand, straight from the people USMEF has on the front lines living and breathing this region’s meat trade every single day. It just doesn’t get any more accurate than that.

“Every time we visited a restaurant or a retail establishment, the contact person – it might be the chef, it might be the manager or owner, or it might be the guy behind the meat counter – always seemed to know our USMEF staff person and seemed to have a solid relationship with them. That’s something that I really took notice of right away – that the USMEF staff really has a rapport with these people that is one of friendship and one of trust. I feel we’re just so fortunate to have relationships like that because they’re so crucial to our success.”

Fremark said his experience made him even more optimistic about potential demand for U.S. red meat in China, especially if the U.S. and China can agree to terms that will resume beef trade.

“We all know about China having 1.3 billion people – I get that, I was ready for that,” Fremark said. “But what really struck me most about the trip was the large number of people in the region who seem to have a very high standard of living. That, I wasn’t ready for. It really surprised me.

“Certainly there are still a lot of people living in poverty in China, but their middle and upper classes are growing rapidly,” he said. “If and when we get the beef market open, those are the people who will be buying our product. And this has given me a better understanding of why we’ve already achieved success in marketing U.S. pork in China. I feel those opportunities will continue to grow as well.”