Q & A: Beef to China

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Q: What’s the update regarding China’s ban on American beef?

A: The door to the world’s most-populated country and second-largest economy re-opened this summer to U.S. beef exports, ending a 14-year ban. That’s good news for America’s cattle producers (and the farmers who grow their feed grain) who have been shut out of China’s $11 trillion economy, representing nearly 15 percent of the world economy. The USDA says China — population nearly 1.4 billion people — is the world’s fastest growing beef market; representing a major growth opportunity for American agriculture. China’s beef imports rose to $2.5 billion in 2016 and is on pace to jump 17 percent to 950,000 metric tons in 2017. To qualify for export to China, the new trade agreement requires U.S. cattle producers to track the birthplace of their livestock, and beef must come from cattle younger than 30 months of age. 

So far, at least one Iowa beef processor has received certification from the USDA to ship to China. That facility, located in Tama, employs more than 800 workers and purchases its cattle from more than 1,000 local farm families. From my committee assignments on the Senate agriculture and finance committees, I have worked to lift the restrictions set in place following concerns of mad cow disease in 2003. Rigorous negotiations took place recently, following a meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The new trade deal spells out compliance for animal health standards on the farm and food safety protocols in the processing facility to end the beef ban. At long last, families in China will be able to sink their teeth into high-quality USDA prime beef. Restoring direct access to the Chinese market will expand the market for U.S. beef as the growing middle class population in China looks to add wholesome, nutritious protein to their diets. Iowa’s nearly 20,000 beef cattle farms stand to prosper from the growing demand for high-quality beef in China and around the world. And that will prime the pump for even more economic growth and job creation here in Iowa. In 2015, Iowa’s cattle industry contributed $6.9 billion in business activity to the state’s economy. That accounts for 28,000 jobs directly and indirectly related to Iowa’s cattle industry. Iowa ranks fourth in the nation for cattle and ninth for number of beef cows. I will continue to advocate and work with this administration to open up markets for American ag exports around the world.

Q: What’s the scoop on Iowa’s dairy industry?

A: Iowa ranks 12th in the nation for milk production, with 1,360 licensed dairy farms according to the Midwest Dairy Association. We are seventh in the nation for the number of dairy herds and fourth for ice cream production.

Iowa has 14 dairy processing facilities. It takes only 48 hours for milk to get from the farm to the dairy case. Dairy has long been integral to Iowa’s heritage and there’s no better time than summer time to celebrate its contribution to supplying wholesome products to consumers and driving economic growth. In fact, the month of June is set aside to observe National Dairy Month followed by National Ice Cream month in July.

Consumers who enjoy the nutritional benefits and versatility of dairy products, including milk, cheese and yogurt, are supporting a vital industry in Iowa that contributes nearly $5 billion to the state’s economy and accounts for 22,000 jobs, according to a 2012 ISU study. From production to processing, distribution and retail, the dairy industry in Iowa makes a profitable impact on the farm and main street businesses.

President Ronald Reagan first designated the third Sunday of July as National Ice Cream Day, observing that more than 90 percent of Americans enjoy the frozen treat. In 1983, more than 887 million gallons of ice cream were consumed in the U.S. And today, it’s estimated the average American eats more than 23 pounds of ice cream each year. Well before electrical refrigeration, our Founding Fathers enjoyed the frozen treat and historical documents show that Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson served ice cream to their guests and built ice houses at Mount Vernon and Monticello to have a year-round supply.

It’s no secret that I share their enthusiasm for ice cream and regularly enjoy a scoop or two in my diet, as well. I encourage Iowans to celebrate Iowa agriculture throughout the summer and every day of the year. In fact, Iowa’s county fairs are a great way to see the next generation continue our state’s agriculture heritage, showcase the stewardship of our natural resources and enjoy a summertime rite of passage with friends and neighbors. To find a listing of county fairs in Iowa, go to www.iowafairs.com.  Of course, arguably the most famous salute to the dairy industry, a cow sculpted from butter, can be found each year since 1911 at the Iowa State Fair in August.