DENVER – On March 5, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. and Russia had reached an agreement to reopen the Russian market to U.S. pork and pork products. Keith Miller, U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.) president-elect was in attendance at the 2010 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Calif., when Mr. Vilsack made the announcement.

A farmer-stockman from Great Bend, Kan., Mr. Miller said the timing of the agreement is critical as Russia’s economy and currency have recently been gaining strength and that means increased opportunities for U.S. pork and beef exports. He added he is also hopeful for a resumption of U.S. poultry exports to Russia, as this could help relieve some of the potential price pressure created for U.S. pork and beef when large quantities of poultry are available in both the domestic and global marketplace.

The next step for resuming pork exports to Russia is for U.S. plants to apply for approval with the Agricultural Marketing Service (A.M.S.). A.M.S., in collaboration with the Food Safety and Inspection Service, has developed an Export Verification Program to address specific product requirements.

Essential for bringing pork trade back to its previous level of activity is the reinstatement of plants currently delisted. Russia imported about 307 million lbs. of U.S. pork and pork variety meat in 2009, valued at $289.3 million. But this was a sharp decline from 2008, when more U.S. plants were eligible to export to Russia. That year, exports totaled 480 million lbs. valued at $476 million.