DENVER — With an estimated 230,000 cattle on feed and nearly 1.4 million hogs and pigs in a state with a human population of just more than 800,000, South Dakota is a major player in the national livestock business. South Dakota corn-industry leaders say their greatest opportunity for increased sales and growth is through the export market, which has resulted in an active partnership with the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

"The corn industry knows its No. 1 customer in the U.S. is the livestock feeding industry," said David Fremark, president of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council. "Ultimately, meat is the value-added product we create. When we export U.S. beef and pork, the product goes overseas and the value stays here."

South Dakota’s corn industry has supported Mr. Fremark’s statement with Corn Checkoff dollars, which U.S.M.E.F. has matched with funds from the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program to implement trade access and promotional programs in key international markets. During the past nine years, South Dakota corn has contributed more than $1 million to U.S.M.E.F. to support export-oriented programs, said Lisa Richardson, executive director of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association.

Since the creation of the M.A.P. program in 1985, U.S. agricultural exports have increased by nearly 300% and today more than 1.2 million Americans have jobs that depend on these exports, according to the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports.

"If we’re going to increase profitability through increased sales, we’re going to do it by selling (meat) to foreign countries," Mr. Fremark said. "That’s our only hope to improve profits in the current climate."

U.S.M.E.F. values the partnership it had developed with South Dakota corn, said Philip Seng, president and chief executive officer of U.S.M.E.F. "Utilizing matching funds, we are able to multiply the value of their Checkoff dollars to have a meaningful impact in the marketplace," he added. "That was the intent behind the original Market Access Program, and we’re seeing it work well here."