The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) concluded its Strategic Planning Conference in Long Beach, California, Nov. 8 with the election of new officers for the coming year. Conley Nelson of Algona, Iowa, was elected USMEF chairman.
“I am very humbled to be in this position and excited and proud to be up here representing the U.S. Meat Export Federation as its new chairman,” said Nelson, a pork producer and past president of the National Pork Board. He has worked for Smithfield Foods for 35 years and is currently general manager of Smithfield’s hog production division in the company’s five-state Midwest region.
Nelson was raised on a family farm in north-central Iowa that included a purebred Angus herd, a Holstein dairy herd and a farrow-to-finish hog operation. His family also grew corn and soybeans and has been involved in contract pork production since 1983. He views his term as USMEF chairman as an opportunity to continue the many successes the federation has enjoyed, while also meeting its challenges head-on.
“One of the things I’ve thought about as chair-elect over the past year is that when you become a USMEF officer, you sort of put the allegiances to your own sector – in my case the pork sector – aside, and you think about the big picture,” said Nelson. “I wanted to get myself immersed into some of the other sectors of the red meat industry. So, I attended the Sheep Industry Innovators Conference at the invitation of Greg Ahart, a member of the USMEF Executive Committee and an executive at Superior Farms. It was two-and-a-half days of presentations and tours with sheep producers from all over the United States, and it was a great learning experience.”
Nelson also shared his story of traveling to Manhattan, Kansas, to meet with John Butler, CEO of Beef Marketing Group (BMG), and being given a tour of one of BMG’s feedlots. Nelson then visited rancher Steve Hanson and toured one of his cow-calf operations in Nebraska. Butler and Hanson are both members of USMEF’s Executive Committee.
“These were great ways to connect with different sectors of the livestock industry and learn about their challenges and opportunities,” explained Nelson. “I learned from these experiences that there are more similarities than differences between the sectors, there’s a tremendous amount of love for what we all do and we all have a serious drive to constantly get better and improve our operations. We also share common concerns about the labor situation, what the impact of new technology will be and how we are going to pass these operations on to the next generation.”
Nelson succeeds Dennis Stiffler, who has more than 30 years of livestock and meat industry experience and is currently president of the Texas Division of Halperns’ Steak and Seafood.
The USMEF chair-elect is Eden, Idaho, cattle feeder Cevin Jones, who operates Intermountain Beef, a custom feedlot. Jones served as vice chairman of the Federation of State Beef Councils and on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) board of directors. He is a past winner of the Idaho Cattle Feeder of the Year Award.
Pat Binger of Wichita, Kansas, who heads international sales for Cargill Protein Group, is USMEF vice chair. A 30-year Cargill employee, Binger first became involved with USMEF more than 25 years ago.
The newest USMEF officer is Mark Swanson, who was elected secretary-treasurer. Swanson, is CEO of Birko Corporation, headquartered in Henderson, Colorado. He has more than 20 years of experience with some of the most respected institutions in the protein industry, including Iowa Beef Processors, ConAgra Foods and Swift & Company.
At its closing business session, the USMEF Board of Directors also approved a resolution expressing support for timely negotiation of a U.S.-Japan trade agreement. The resolution notes that Japan will soon implement two major trade agreements – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement – that will extend significant tariff rate advantages to all of the U.S. beef and pork industries’ major competitors in Japan.
“USMEF members understand the urgency of this situation, and it is important to reinforce this message with our government officials and industry partners,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom.
On Oct. 16, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) officially notified Congress that the Trump administration intends to negotiate a trade agreement with Japan. USTR is accepting comments through Nov. 26 to develop U.S. positions in preparation for these negotiations. A public hearing is set for Dec. 10.