Kansas Corn Commissioners get firsthand look at importance of strong Asian markets for U.S. beef
Assessing efforts to regain market share for U.S. beef in Japan and Korea was the focus of three Kansas corn commissioners in a recent trip with the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Members of the Kansas Corn Commission have returned from Japan and South Korea where they observed the work of USMEF and the retail and foodservice performance of U.S. beef and pork products. These two countries are major importers of U.S. red meat.
Corn Commissioners Brian Baalman of Menlo, Ken McCauley of White Cloud, Bob Timmons of Fredonia, and KCC Executive Director Jere White were joined on the trip by USMEF Vice Chairman Keith Miller of Great Bend, and farm broadcaster Greg Akagi of the Kansas Agriculture Network. White said the Kansas Corn Commission is marking its 30th year of work with the US Meat Export Federation, and over that time, has invested over one million dollars in building red meat export markets through USMEF.
"A few years ago we surpassed one million dollars in funding to the USMEF which is a significant amount of dollars from a checkoff program that is relatively small in comparison to other corn states," KCC Executive Director Jere White said. "We've made a commitment, and we wanted to highlight that relationship back to our friends in the livestock industry, and also to help educate ourselves. We were there with three commissioners that are making the funding decisions to give them an actual hands-on look at how their decisions are actually making a difference. We certainly saw that in our visits."
In addition to meeting with key importers and distributors, team members visited the largest cold storage facility in Japan. They were able to see chilled products arriving from several Kansas plants as well as many other plants across the United States.
McCauley, who represents northeast Kansas on the corn commission, said the success of Kansas corn farmers is directly tied to strong markets for Kansas and U.S. beef and pork.
"Japan is our biggest export customer. We need to keep in close contact and make sure our customers are happy," McCauley said. "That's what we're here to do--not only to talk about the beef market but actually help them increase the pounds coming over here and that translates back home to more corn demand."
USMEF has played a key role reopening beef export markets to Asian markets after a single case of BSE was found in the U.S. late 2003. Baalman, who represents northwest Kansas on the commission, said work needs to continue to rebuild those export markets for beef.
"It really affects the U.S. cattleman here today. The lost value is probably in the range of 100 to 150 a head of lost value in the Japanese market that could be re-attained if we can just get some cooperation between our two governments and I think we are just on the cusp of getting that to open up," Baalman said. "To me it's like turning the switch on--the value comes back to us as corn producers because livestock has always been our number one customer."
McCauley said the stop in South Korea after visiting Japan illustrated how important it is for U.S. beef to regain a foothold in the Korean market.
"When you get into the grocery stores in Korea, it's a very good selection, much more selection on products," McCauley said. "It looked a lot like the U.S. stores but different products. We got the opportunity to see a lot of U.S. beef in the stores as well as a lot of Australian corn fed beef, which surprised me. I think our U.S. beef producers have some real bona fide competition from Austrailia."
The Australian beef industry is also working to strengthen Korean markets for its product. Currently nearly Australian beef has a 65 percent market share, compared to 15 percent for U.S. beef in Korea. However, a majority of Korean consumers prefer U.S. beef.
It is important to for corn producers to understand the challenges and opportunities U.S. beef has in Japan and Korea, according to Timmons, who represents southeast Kansas on the commission
"We need to be able to understand the problems the beef industry has in getting their products sold. And Japan is a good example of a place that really wants our beef but there are the restrictions that have caused a lot of problems. For the corn commission, it has been important for us to fund the USMEF, and we've seen while we've been here they are doing a really good job. They have a good staff that's promoting U.S. meat in Japan and Korea. The work they're doing with the importers is a good thing for the beef industry as well as the corn industry."
The Kansas Corn Commission is grower board that invests the half-cent per bushel corn checkoff in the areas of market development, research, promotion and education to increase the profitability of corn.