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USMEF Lays Emphasis on Communications

by 5m Editor
10 November 2008, at 9:28am

US - As Iowa pork producer Jon Caspers begins his term as chairman of the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) board of directors, he’s focused on improving communications with the wide range of agricultural producers and industry sectors that make up the most vertically integrated trade association representing the meat and livestock industry in the United States.

“We have to continue to tell the story of trade and inform producers all across the country about how it influences their bottom line,“ says Caspers. “We have a great story to tell. But we just have to make sure they’re informed about that because the ongoing support for the activities that really build this industry – that really build trade — comes from them.

“We have to make sure we listen to what USMEF members want out of their organization, which is to increase trade, and ensure that we are actively engaged with our membership all the time,“ he said. “USMEF staff are best-suited to deliver on those expectations.“

Caspers, who operates a 13,000 head-per-year nursery-to-finish hog operation in Swaledale, Iowa, originally became involved with USMEF through his leadership roles in the Iowa Pork Producers Association and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). He also serves on the USDA/USTR Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade (APAC).

“Every year for 17 years in a row we’ve had more (pork export) volume than the year before, so that’s quite a string,“ Caspers said. “The pork industry became a net exporter back in 1995, and we’ve just seen volumes continue to increase. So we’ve got a good product that’s very competitive internationally.“

Caspers says U.S. agriculture must continue to recognize the benefits of trade because it represents such a key component of the agricultural industry and the national economy.

“The overall trend of trade making up a bigger part of the economy is absolutely going to continue,“ he said. “If we step back from that or falter, we’re going to lose. We need to continue to promote exports and participate in those markets, because it’s only going to speed the recovery here and across the globe.“

While much of Caspers’ personal focus has been directed at pork exports, he recognizes the diverse constituency that is served by USMEF. Caspers said the organization can also be proud of its success in building markets for U.S. beef, lamb, feedgrains and oilseeds.

“Beef has experienced much more of a challenge. We still see effects of the BSE finding back in late 2003,“ he said. “In spite of that, we’ve finally seen beef exports recover to similar levels that we had back in 2003. But there is significant opportunity out there, and we can still make huge headway in the beef market.“

In his new role, Caspers replaces outgoing USMEF chair Dan Halstrom of JBS S.A. Montana beef producer Jim Peterson was selected as the new USMEF chair-elect. Peterson is also a state legislator and associate dean of the College of Agriculture at Montana State University.

Kansas farmer-stockman Keith Miller is the new USMEF vice-chair. Miller raises cattle, wheat, alfalfa, milo, corn and soybeans in Barton County, Kan., and is an active leader in the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Kansas Farm Bureau.

Indiana pork producer Danita Rodibaugh joins the USMEF officer team as secretary-treasurer. Ms. Rodibaugh’s family farm operation produces corn, soybeans and wheat — along with purebred seedstock swine — near Rennselaer, Ind. She became active with USMEF as a member of the NPPC board of directors and as a past president of the National Pork Board.