US meat industry looks for export support as EU plans to triple spend

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

USMEF calls for more agri-food investment
USMEF calls for more agri-food investment

Related tags: European union, European commission, Us

US meat bosses have urged their government to do more to increase meat exports from the country, following an announcement by the European Commission to triple financial support for exports.

Frustration has been aired across the food industry about the US Congress’ continued debate over budget cuts, which have been further provoked by Europe’s announcement to pump millions of euros into the export of agriculture and agri-food products.

Proposals to expand Europe’s export initiative have been submitted to the European Parliament, to be reviewed as soon as possible. If they are passed, European aid for agricultural exports could increase progressively from €61m (US$82.5m) this year to €200m (US$270.5m) in 2020.

Europe will use food safety and quality to promote its produce and Dacian Ciolos, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “In a world in which consumers are increasingly aware of the safety, quality and sustainability of food production methods, European farmers and small- or medium-sized enterprises are in a position of strength,”

He added: “The European agricultural and agri-food sector is well-known for the unrivalled quality of its products and its compliance with standards that are unmatched anywhere else in the world. With over €110bn worth of exports already, this is a formidable asset for boosting growth and employment within the EU.”

US reaction

Meanwhile, Mark Jagels, chairman of the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), said Europe’s move should send a clear message to the US Congress. Jagels explained that since America’s borders only held 4% of the world’s population, the country needed to focus on putting US meat and other agricultural products on the world’s table. “If we don’t, our competitors in the EU and around the world will gladly take that business off our hands.”

He said US agricultural exports topped US$141bn in value for 2012 and the sector supported more than 1m jobs in America. “They accounted for a US$38.5bn surplus in the balance of trade for the year – one of the few bright spots in our economy."

Investment pays off

Jagels claimed the figures spoke for themselves when it came to exporting US agri-food. He explained that a recent US Department for Agriculture (USDA) study showed that investment of USDA and Checkoff funds in USMEF programmes over the last 10 years. Jagels said investments had returned an average of US$7.42 in net revenue to the US pork industry and US$3.87 to the beef industry.

He added: “Where better can we invest our tax dollars than in supporting agricultural exports that create jobs, bolster an essential industry and put tax revenue back into the government’s coffers,” said Jagels. “We need to take a cue from the European Union and support agricultural exports rather than reducing spending on these essential programs.”

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