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Fresh Beef and A Globe

Posted on October 9, 2009 10:00 by Andy Vance

While I’m a passionate Shorthorn breeder and proud cattleman, my “day job” is reporting agricultural news on a statewide radio network.  In the near-decade I’ve spent in the newsroom, one of the most consistent topics of reporting is global trade and agricultural products.  From the push for Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China to passing “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority for President’s Clinton and Bush to the dispute over science-based trade of U.S. Beef following the discover of BSE in this country in 2003, there continues to be no shortage of stories related to global farm trade.  And yet, I observe that global trade remains one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated pieces of the farm income puzzle in our country. 


To say that we are in a global marketplace is understatement bordering on folly.  Regardless of your policy leanings on this issue, it is indisputable that a significant portion of U.S. agricultural revenues, particularly in the livestock and meat trade, are generated outside our borders.  This week NCBA, commenting on Wednesday’s announcement that Canada will pursue a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute process against U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL), reinforced the importance of international trade to beef producers.


Canada and Mexico are our top two trading partners, together accounting for 59% of total U.S. beef, beef variety meat and processed beef product export revenues last year, according to the NCBA statement.  Considering it likely that Mexico will join Canada in proceeding with a formal WTO dispute settlement process soon, NCBA stated “the U.S. imports and adds value to Mexican and Canadian livestock through our feedlots, processing and infrastructure; and we export this value-added finished product back to Mexican and Canadian consumers. Any disruptions to either of these markets will have a significant economic impact on our industry. Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that COOL has damaged these critically important trading relationships, and is not putting any additional money into the pockets of cattlemen.” More...