Dan Halstrom is the president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
A graduate of the University of Iowa, Halstrom grew up on a diversified farm near Cherokee, Iowa. He joined USMEF after 27 years in the meat industry with Swift & Company (now doing business as JBS).
As USMEF senior vice president of marketing, Halstrom was responsible for coordination of programs facilitating the marketing of U.S. beef, pork, and lamb. He assumed the role of USMEF president and CEO in 2017.
IFT: What is USMEF’s role when it comes to trade negotiations or even advice for negotiators?
HALSTROM: Trade negotiations are strictly government-to-government, so USMEF has no formal role in negotiating market access terms with trading partners. However, we appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with other industry stakeholders in communicating with USTR and USDA on these matters by submitting comments, testifying at public hearings or outlining our concerns through industry letters or face-to-face meetings with U.S. trade officials.
Trade negotiations are a difficult and detailed process, and the U.S. government does an excellent job of seeking industry input and incorporating this feedback when making decisions at the negotiating table.
IFT: There have been three major trade agreements reached recently — the USMCA, the agreement with Japan and the phase one agreement with China. How big are these for the meat industry?
HALSTROM: Each is extremely important in its own way. Mexico and Canada are critical markets for U.S. red meat, and it is absolutely essential that USMCA is ratified and implemented because it will secure long-term, duty-free access to these markets. Some might say that USMCA merely maintains the status quo, but that is an over-simplification.
Sure, U.S. red meat already had duty- free access and tariffs can’t go lower than zero. But, negotiating USMCA was not an easy process. Tireless efforts were needed to get Congressional approval for this agreement and to persuade Mexico and Canada to accept the revisions Congress demanded.
For the U.S. meat industry’s customers in Mexico and Canada, USMCA provides certainty and stability for their businesses and solidifies the United States’ position as a reliable supplier of pork, beef and lamb.
Japan represented an urgent situation in which the U.S. had become the only major red meat supplier to the Japanese market that had not secured tariff relief for beef and pork. This is the leading value market for both U.S. beef and pork, and yet we faced significant tariff disadvantages compared to European, Canadian and Mexican pork, as well as beef from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico.
And without an agreement, the tariff rate gap would have widened each and every year.
The U.S.-Japan trade agreement levels the tariff playing field for U.S. pork and beef, and it is also important to note that with imported red meat entering Japan at lower tariff rates, consumption will increase. So the U.S. industry will not only be better able to defend and recapture our existing market share, but is also well-positioned to capitalize on overall consumption growth.
The phase one trade agreement with China offers tremendous potential for U.S. beef exports because the commitments included in the agreement address many of the import restrictions that have prevented U.S. beef from gaining a foothold in the world’s largest and fastest-growing beef import market. China has also agreed to open its market to processed pork and beef products, and the growth potential for these products is also excellent, including through potential penetration of the fast-growing ecommerce sector.
But retaliatory duties still represent a significant obstacle and add uncertainty to U.S. red meat entering China, so we are hopeful that these tariffs are removed soon. This would allow U.S. pork and beef to compete on a level playing field in China.
IFT: Much of the attention has been focused on China, Japan, Mexico and Canada. What are some markets that are becoming major players for U.S. meat exports?
HALSTROM: South Korea has been the growth leader for U.S. beef the past two years, and we project this growth to continue. Taiwan is also an outstanding, record-setting, high-value market for U.S. beef, and there are excellent continued growth opportunities for U.S. beef in Europe, Central and South America and Southeast Asia. We also see great long-term potential in Africa, especially in markets such as South Africa, Angola, Morocco and Ghana.
U.S. pork continues to set records in Central and South America, and has achieved remarkable growth in markets such as Australia and New Zealand. Southeast Asia is also a region to watch carefully, as African swine fever has impacted pork production in Vietnam and the Philippines. While it takes some time for this to translate into an increased need for imported pork, and these markets remain price-sensitive, there is certainly potential for additional import demand.
IFT: How has USMEF’s mission changed throughout its history? How do you see it continuing to evolve?
HALSTROM: USMEF’s mission has remained consistent over the past 40-plus years — to increase the value and profitability of the U.S. beef, pork and lamb industries by enhancing demand for their products in export markets through a dynamic partnership of all stakeholders.
Obviously the strategies and tactics have evolved over the years as we have seen dramatic growth in exports that reach a much larger percentage of the world’s population. But along with this success comes increased challenges from both a marketing standpoint and market access perspective.
In an effort to adapt to an increasingly volatile global marketplace, USMEF is further focused upon improved communication, cooperation and collaboration with our membership and with industry partners to maximize the global opportunities as envisioned by the industry pioneers who founded our organization.