TUCSON, Ariz. – The US Meat Export Federation's (USMEF) 35th Anniversary Strategic Planning Conference began Nov. 2 in Tucson, Ariz. Industry insiders provided attendees with their insights on expanding US meat exports.

Dr. Harry Kaiser, a Cornell Univ. economist, discussed findings of his recently completed study on the effectiveness of USMEF’s foreign marketing efforts. “An Economic Analysis of the US Meat Export Federation’s Export Market Development Programs” was commissioned by USMEF to quantify the returns that the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and the beef, pork, corn and soybean checkoff programs receive from their investments in USMEF’s export market development programs. The independent study was funded by the USDA and Kaiser was chosen from several researchers who proposed to do the research.

“Basically what we found is very good news,” Kaiser said. “The US Meat Export Federation’s beef and pork market development programs were found to have a positive and statistically significant impact on imports of US red meat in all of the eight markets that were analyzed.”

The economic model showed combined producer and USDA marketing expenditures increased US red meat exports by more than 30 percent per year. “If we compare the results of this study to the results of 16 published studies for other commodities, the bottom line is that these USMEF programs have had a larger impact on import demand than the majority of similar programs for other commodities,” he said.

The importance of exports was covered by Bill Rupp, president of JBS USA’s beef division, who drove home the critical role international markets play in his company’s profitability.

“When you look at some of the products we export, you see a price volatility in some cases,” Rupp said. “But there’s a constant return over what we could expect if we had to ‘disappear’ these products into a domestic market. So, I want to say thanks for the great job USMEF does in helping us promote and position our products in the export markets. Clearly today, we’re not in business without strong international growth.”

John Bellinger, CEO of Food Safety Net and Agri-West International, addressed the importance of exports to the US meat industry and the health of the entire US economy. “There’s one way for our country to get out of this economic recession,” he said. “We have to export our way to prosperity. Do you think China became an economic powerhouse by selling to its own people? They exported. They exported their way out of poverty. We’re just trying to export our way out of a little recession – China exported its way out of poverty.”

US meat export results in 2011 were recapped by USMEF Chairman Keith Miller and President and CEO Philip Seng. They also discussed challenges that lie ahead. Market updates were provided by regional directors who represent USMEF in Japan, Mexico, Central America, South America, Europe, Russia and the Middle East.