DENVER — Although brand names have increasingly become more important to consumers looking for quality and consistency, small, U.S.-based meat companies may have a tough time making their brand names familiar to international buyers. However, help is available for smaller processors to help them penetrate this barrier.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Branded Products Promotion Program — the red-meat portion, which is administered through the U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.) — has racked up some successes in helping small companies gain entry and establish their branded products in numerous international markets.

Processors participating in the U.S.M.E.F. Branded Products Promotion Program use their own money, leveraged with matching funds from the program, to develop export markets for their U.S. red-meat exports. In 2008, 16 companies involved in the program exported pork and beef to markets that included Mexico, Japan and Europe and they reported sales of U.S. beef and pork valued at almost $12 million. These companies exceeded their projected sales goal by 26%.

Participation in the program is limited to small companies as defined by the Small Business Administration, i.e., eligible companies with 500 or fewer employees, or participants must be a producer cooperative or an association.

All branded-program participants are required to set measurable performance goals based on projected export sales to targeted markets in their applications. U.S.M.E.F. relays if a participating company attends a trade show, it will be asked to report on the number of sales made at the show, sales as a result of contacts made at the show and sales of new products.

The branded program is a small part of the larger coordinated U.S.M.E.F. effort that includes generic funding from U.S.D.A.’s Market Access and Foreign Market Development programs, private-industry funds and funding from the beef, pork, corn and soybean checkoffs to promote foreign sales of U.S. red meat.

U.S.M.E.F. said funds from this program can help companies conduct a variety of activities in international markets, including attend trade fairs and exhibits, offset costs of promotional materials used in connection with a promotion, as well as conduct retail and H.R.I. promotions, among other things.

U.S.M.E.F. is accepting applications for the 2010 fiscal year from U.S. companies interested in receiving matching funds to promote their branded U.S. red meat products in international markets. Promotions funded under this program must be conducted between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2010. Applications will be accepted as long as funds are available. Companies receiving funding from U.S.M.E.F. will be charged a 5% administrative fee for participation in the program. The fee is 5% of U.S.M.E.F.’s contribution to the activity budget.

U.S.M.E.F. requires a $100 submittal fee to accompany the company's request for funding. If the company completes the contracting process, these funds will be applied toward the 5% administrative fee.

Contact Barbara Watson at the U.S.M.E.F. Denver office — (303) 623-6328 — or by e-mail at for guidelines and the proposal format. The application and information on the program also are available on the U.S.M.E.F. web site.