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USMEF Honors Three for Contributions to U.S. Red Meat’s International Success

Three people who have played vastly different roles in helping the U.S. red meat industry achieve success internationally were recognized by USMEF at an awards luncheon that allowed honorees to share their personal experiences in the effort to expand exports.

The luncheon, held during the USMEF Strategic Planning Conference in Tucson, Arizona, honored Danita Rodibaugh, Barry Carpenter and Wendy Cutler.

Rodibaugh received the USMEF Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the pursuit of USMEF’s export goals.

A former USMEF chair and longtime advocate for the U.S. red meat industry, Rodibaugh has been active in the management of a family farm operation that raises pigs, corn, soybeans and wheat. She is a past president of the National Pork Board (NPB) and has held many key industry leadership roles, chairing the Ethics of Pork Production Task Force and serving on the board of directors of both the National Pork Producers Council and Indiana Pork.

Rodibaugh shared her appreciation for the USMEF officers, executive committee members and staff who accepted her into the organization and encouraged her to take on leadership positions. This inspired her to help others make key contributions to USMEF.

“I came to you for mentoring and advice along the way, and many of you freely gave me your time,” she said. “I took notice of that and, as I advanced as an officer or committee member at USMEF, I tried to do the same for people who came to me with questions or in need of help.”

Carpenter and Cutler received the Michael J. Mansfield Award, presented in honor of the former U.S. Senate majority leader and U.S. ambassador to Japan who helped form the foundation for U.S. trade relations throughout the world.

Carpenter, who recently retired as president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), had a 50-year career in public and private sectors. His career included 37 years at USDA, where he led the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Livestock and Seed Division. Carpenter oversaw creation of USDA’s beef export verification programs, which were critical to restoring market access for U.S. beef following the nation’s first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). At NAMI, Carpenter was a highly respected spokesperson for the U.S. meat industry who provided steady guidance on key policy issues.

Carpenter expressed his appreciation for the award and recalled the many times USMEF served as a partner and ally to him throughout his career.

“I’ve always had tremendous respect for USMEF, so that makes this award even that much more special to me,” Carpenter said.

Looking back at his career, Carpenter said the recovery of the U.S. beef industry following BSE-related market closures are among the most memorable.

Left to right: USMEF Chair Conley Nelson, Danita Rodibaugh, Wendy Cutler and Barry Carpenter

Left to right: USMEF Chair Conley Nelson, Danita Rodibaugh, Wendy Cutler and Barry Carpenter

“There was a lot of misinformation and many challenges facing the entire red meat industry,” he said, “But our team at USDA was remarkable and was able to set things on track. We are still feeling the effects of that BSE case in some places, but we’re seeing tremendous benefits today from the work we did back then, and that’s very rewarding.”

Cutler, vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), has a long history of helping the U.S. meat industry overcome barriers in the international marketplace. Prior to joining ASPI, she had a very accomplished career with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Cutler worked on a wide range of trade negotiations and other initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region, serving as USTR’s chief negotiator on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) and leading the bilateral negotiations with Japan under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Cutler said opening Asian markets to U.S. red meat was one of the most difficult tasks of her career, due to trading partners’ desire to protect their domestic livestock producers.

“If you had told me 12 years ago that I would be here accepting this award and you would all be really happy about the access you have in Korea, I would have said, ‘I don’t see that happening,'” Cutler joked. “But yet here we are, and by working together we were able to open that market and become the No. 1 exporter to Korea. But the government just does part of that – you did the rest.”