International picture bright for U.S. cattlemen

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Oct 23, 2006
by WLJ
The worldwide picture for U.S. beef exports looks positive, according to Clayton Yeutter, and that’s good news for cattlemen.

Speaking at a joint meeting of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) in Amarillo, Yeutter told cattlemen that there is some good news in the international competitive picture. Cattle feeders were in Amarillo for the TCFA annual convention and TSCRA members gathered for their fall board and committee meetings.

Yeutter, a past USDA secretary and former U.S. trade representative, believes that beef’s traditional export markets will come back fairly quickly and that’s encouraging for the U.S. cattle industry. “The real question is, can we build on that and make it bigger in the future?”

Yeutter thinks the U.S. beef industry can, even in the face of global competition from Brazil, Australia, Argentina and the European Union.

“First, when and if we ever complete the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations, agricultural export subsidies of all kinds will disappear forever.”

The biggest user of agriculture export subsidies, including beef, is the European Union, he said. “Once those export subsidies are out of the picture, that will make it far more difficult for the European Union to move product into the world market in competition with the United States.”

Yeutter said many feel the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks is dead. “But my personal judgment is it will come back to life. I’m not sure it will come back to life in the next few months, but I think it will get there eventually. I believe that export subsidies in agriculture are going to go by the wayside and that’s going to be good for the industry.”
Argentina and Australia have the potential to be major world competitors in beef exports, but Australia doesn’t have the resources to expand its beef industry much beyond its present size, Yeutter said, and Argentina’s government will continue to hamper the nation’s ability to export beef.

“So that means Brazil is likely to be our major competitor in export markets in beef. And what we have to do is beat the Brazilians in terms of quality of product. We need to put higher valued, higher quality beef into the international marketplace in the coming years.”
Yeutter told cattlemen that someone always asks if there are enough affluent people outside the U.S. to buy American beef.

Where are those consumers? “Basically, it’s the developing nations throughout Asia that will have the population and the growing purchasing power to be able to handle additional imports of American beef products. And those can be some excellent markets for American beef through the years.”