One of the most significant issues of 2019 continues to loom large over the beef industry — action on trade. There’s the on-again, off-again haggling with certain foreign markets, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement that still must pass congressional muster and the lack of a trade agreement with one of our lead export markets.

If there’s ever been a time to support market development and export growth and continue to push the need for trade agreements, it’s now.

The Illinois Beef Association Checkoff Division invests in the U.S. Meat Export Federation each year to support building beef demand in foreign markets. While we still have work to do in some areas, we’re seeing progress in others.

According to USMEF, South Korea remains the export growth leader for United States beef, with April volume up 18% to 22,58 metric tons. Taiwan is also coming off a record year for U.S. beef exports and posted a strong April at 5,11 metric tons, up 15% from a year ago, valued at $47.9 million, up 14%.

U.S. beef is also gaining the attention of European countries as they seek to become stronger trading partners and better understand U.S. production practices.

This very notion led two different trade teams to Illinois early this summer. IBA welcomed a group of journalists from the United Kingdom and a group of business professionals from throughout the European Union and South America with a focus on advancing sustainable agricultural practices.

IBA Past President Mike Martz and his family hosted the delegation of journalists on his farm near Maple Park. They shared basic production practices and explained the symbiotic relationship of cattle and crops on their farm.

Participants also got a glimpse of various on-farm technologies and took part in a demonstration on how the operation determines market readiness through use of an ultrasound machine.

Members of a sustainability group from the EU and representatives of conversation groups from South America and the United States took a tour of La Salle County and visited hosts David and Jim Isermann near Streator, Ken Dau near Sheridan and Alan, JoAnn and Ross Adams near Sandwich.

Each host shared unique aspects of their farm, had conversations about what it took to bring the next generation back to the farm and shared efforts to continuously improve sustainability.

Tour participants were able to experience multiple aspects of the beef lifecycle. They learned the importance of managed grazing systems and the benefits of raising livestock in a confinement from an animal welfare and environmental standpoint.

If you follow acceptable production practices in the UK and EU, you won’t be surprised that conversations with both tour groups ended up focusing on the use of technologies like growth promotants, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms along with various sustainable practices.

I would like to thank the tour hosts for opening up their farms. We hope we were able to tighten the knowledge expanse between the difference in agricultural production practices of the United States and the countries represented along with doing our part to continue to build beef demand and strengthen relationships with foreign markets.

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