Despite trade disputes, cattlemen celebrate record beef exports

Cattlemen Convention 2018 in Kearney (NTV News)

Despite challenges with trade, the beef industry is holding its own with record exports in 2018, which brings benefits to the Beef State.

The Nebraska Cattlemen organization is meeting this week in Kearney, where they’re celebrating the growth in international beef sales.

“We see so much demand coming throughout the world for quality U.S. beef is such a big item, whether it be Japan or South Korea, we hope China at some point in the future,” said Marty Smith, a cattlemen from Florida who serves on the board for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

As strong as the numbers are, cattlemen say it would be even better if tariffs like Japan's tax on U.S. beef are lifted.

“If we eliminate that tariff or at least limit it, man it really opens up a lot of export potential,” Smith said.

Cattlemen say exports add more than $300 per animal. Foreign markets want stomach, liver, and tongue many Americans don't eat.

Smith said, ‘We don't have anywhere to go with that here, if it wasn't for that export market, it may end up in a landfill or something because we just don't have a place for it to go”

Cattlemen say they still have a long way to break into China, which opened its borders to American beef last year.

“What are the food options they really want? American beef. China, next 10 years is going to see 300 million people added to the middle class, the size of the U.S. That's how many buyers we're going to have out there for our product that really want it,” Smith said.

Rancher Dawn Caldwell of Clay County said it's why she supports organizations like the Nebraska Cattlemen, to open markets, and represent beef producers on issues like regulations and taxes.

“If you're not at the table, you're probably on the menu and we've repeated here at this meeting several times, if we are not leading the conversation, someone else is doing it for us and telling our story for us, and creating laws and regulations for us,” Caldwell said.

On the state level, cattlemen say property taxes remain a huge concern.

The Nebraska Cattlemen organization has been working with other groups, trying to make a united effort.

Of 49 senators in the legislature, around a dozen come from rural areas, so they need urban support if they want to do something on property taxes.

Cattlemen President Galen Frenzen of Fullerton said, “Lincoln and Omaha can carry this state, and unfortunately that's the truth. But we've got to work together, we've got enough ag senators that we can use the term block some of their stuff so it's politics, which I don't handle well, but it's the name of the game.”

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