What does a Costco in South Korea have to do with your beef checkoff dollars?
“During the 2003 BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) scare, South Korea cut off 100% of its U.S. beef imports,” said Dean Meyer, who represents Iowa producers on the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) executive board.
“But USMEF did not pull its staff out of the country. Our U.S. representative stayed and waited until the time was right to begin rebuilding relationships with retailers and consumers. Today, one of the world’s largest Costco stores sells only U.S. beef. In less than ten years, Iowa beef checkoff dollars helped make South Korea the number one export market for value!”
Meyer, a beef, pork, corn, and soybean producer from Rock Rapids, is passionate about the role Iowa’s beef producers play in funding the checkoff’s international market growth programs.
“Your checkoff dollars are pooled together, then leveraged by USDA funds like the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program and then leveraged again by private industry to support new markets and new product utilization,” said Meyer. “I’ve seen examples of one checkoff dollar turning into $26 of international investment.”
Those funds are invested in emerging markets across the world, often through one of USMEF’s 18 international offices and staff. “We want to ensure U.S. raised red meat has diverse export opportunities. We do not want to rely on just one big country for our pork and beef exports,” said Meyer.
“The USMEF board brings nine sectors together at one table,” added Meyer. “From the packers, beef producers, corn and soy guys, and Farm Bureau. We may have some issues where we want to throw darts at each other, but around the USMEF table we are promoting red meat internationally, together.”
While Meyer technically represents Iowa Corn Growers Association on the USMEF board, he relies on his fellow cattlemen for insights. “IBIC is a grassroots organization. I communicate with beef producers as we make USMEF decisions. I talk to hog, beef, and soybean producers. Those conversations are where USMEF gets its direction.”
Those beef producers are also where USMEF gets its funding. In Iowa, producers pay a one dollar national checkoff where $.50 automatically is contributed to national programming and the IBIC board of directors dictates how the remaining $.50 is invested. “In Iowa, your IBIC board determines how much of its state fund it wants to invest into USMEF and related programs each year,” said Meyer.
And the checkoff funding is working.
“The carcasses I’m selling today are worth $450 to $500 more because of a strong export market,” Meyer said. “Regardless of which country we target, the meat is the same, but how we market it is different.”
Meyer notes that finding new markets for tongues, tripes, and other variety meats has alone tacked an additional $75 per head onto that carcass value.
“In the U.S., a beef tongue is worth maybe three bucks,” said Meyer. “But in Japan, I’ve seen them selling for $15 per pound and we’re sending 20 million pounds overseas every year. USMEF is making that happen.”
Looking at the full size and scope of USMEF’s work, Meyer is a proud advocate.
“When I attended my first USMEF meeting eight years ago, the U.S. was exporting about 10% of its beef production,” said Meyer. “Today, that number is 17%. We’re getting support from state checkoffs and we’re showing them value.”
USMEF’s checkoff funding has increased approximately 12% per year in recent years.
“We’ve become more confident in our approach to new and emerging markets and we’re growing demand for the safest, most nutritious red meat in the world,” said Meyer. “That tells me the checkoff works. There is no question in my mind.”