New opportunities and issues are emerging for U.S. pork exports, and producers have prioritized key tactics to put more U.S. pork on the world’s table.

“In challenging economic times, pork producers have had to become more efficient and find creative solutions,” says Tim Bierman, a wean-to-finish pork producer from Larrabee, IA, who chairs the National Pork Board’s International Trade Committee. “This is especially important in our international marketing.”

The stakes are high, with exports accounting for 27% of total U.S. pork production in 2012. The 24-member International Trade Committee, as well as staff from the U.S. Meat Export Federation and the National Pork Producers Council and other expert advisors, met earlier this spring to assess market opportunities, discuss market access challenges and review current U.S. pork promotions around the world.

“Each year the committee goes through a prioritization process to divide resources among marketing and promotion, research, new product development, market access and international standard issues,” says Becca Hendricks, assistant vice president of international marketing for the Pork Checkoff. “A lot of strategic thinking goes into allocating Pork Checkoff dollars to protect market access, reduce tariffs and promote U.S. pork.”

All Eyes Are on Asia
One of the top priorities is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Asia-Pacific trade negotiation that includes 11 countries and is designed to reduce tariffs and spur economic growth.

Elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers through this agreement could increase U.S. pork sales by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Another urgent issue is the elimination of unjustified, non-science-based trichinae mitigation restrictions, such as freezing and testing of U.S. pork. The odds of trichinae in the U.S. commercial pork supply are one in 300 million, according to Ray Gamble, president ex-officio of the International Commission on Trichinellosis. Pork Checkoff funding has supported the research and analysis on the negligible risk of trichinae in the U.S. commercial food supply and will now work with foreign markets to change standards based on this data.

Exports Boost Producers’ Profits
Ensuring market access helps build momentum for U.S. pork exports, which have a direct impact on producers’ bottom lines. Key markets, such as Japan and Mexico, as well as expanding markets in Central and South America, helped U.S. pork exports set a new value record in 2012 at $6.3 billion, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We need to continue putting ourselves in these buyers’ shoes so we can understand their needs, increase export demand and focus on long-term, sustained growth,” Bierman says.

Increased demand for U.S. pork will put more money in producers’ pockets, says Dermot Hayes, a professor of economics at Iowa State University. “Every $1 million increase in the value of U.S. pork exports adds 6 cents per hundredweight to live hog prices.”