The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Board of Directors Meeting and Product Showcase kicked off last Wednesday in St. Louis, Missouri. Richard Fordyce, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, welcomed attendees to the event with a discussion of the important role exports have played in making agriculture Missouri’s largest industry. Fordyce also outlined several initiatives that have recently been designed to promote agricultural development in the state, including programs designed to attract and retain young farmers and ranchers.
“If agriculture is going to maintain that No. 1 ranking in Missouri, we’re going to have to grow that new crop of leaders,” Fordyce said. “We need to work with young people to continue to ignite the passion they have for agriculture, continue to cultivate that interest, and move them forward in their agricultural careers.”
Jonathan Cordone, USDA deputy under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services provided a keynote address, noting that USDA currently has 93 international offices covering more than 170 countries on behalf of U.S. agriculture. The importance of market access for U.S. products was also discussed, as well as the acknowledgement that trade agreements are only as valuable as the United States’ ability to enforce them.
“We have an excellent record of ensuring that countries cut their tariffs as they promise to do in our trade agreements, and historically this has been the primary force driving our increased exports to FTA partners,” Cordone explained. “But that’s not the whole story. There are non-tariff barriers that unjustly restrict our access in some markets, and USMEF and its members know better than most that other countries are increasingly deploying non-tariff barriers as their protectionist tool of choice.”
Jesus Madrazo, Monsanto’s vice president for corporate engagement, also spoke, and discussed ways in which Monsanto is collaborating with industry partners to meet growing global food demand while promoting environmental stewardship and addressing concerns such as climate change, water usage and scarcity of agricultural land.
The opening general session of the event was addressed by USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng, who provided his thoughts on global market conditions and stressed the importance of exports in advancing growth and profitability in the U.S. meat industry.
“Trade is being discussed, and being cussed, like never before,” Seng said. “But in my view, trade is really in our DNA.”