Between BSE standard realignment and the prospect of trade deals, 2013 has turned out to be a strong year for international beef trade, says Kent Bacus, Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Bacus says there are several factors that have boosted international trade, one being Japan's decision to lift its age restriction on U.S. cattle from 20 months and under to 30 months and under.
"That's opened up a whole other market to us," Bacus said during an NCBA interview. "That’s made Japan our largest export market for this year."
Baucus says the change accounts for a 35% increase in exports to Japan from 2012, amounting to $1 billion total value.
The United States' recent announcement regarding a comprehensive BSE rule was also welcome news for the beef trade, Bacus said.
"What that will do is essentially bring us in line with (World Organization for Animal Health) guidelines without jeopardizing our existing interlocking safeguards," Bacus says.
That change should take effect in the next 90 days, he adds.
Individual countries are also expanding their demand for protein, Bacus says, pointing specifically to trends in not only Japan, but also Canada and Mexico.
The Pacific Rim is also presenting strong opportunities for the U.S. beef trade. Markets in Hong Kong and Korea, Bacus added are likely to grow also.
With predictions of exports accounting for upwards of $300 per head, it's an incentive for producers to stay in the game.
"I think exports are going to continue to be a major part of our production," Bacus said, explaining that other opportunities like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, will provide additional incentive for international trade.
"We are trusting that our (TPP) negotiators are going to be able to carry our message forward, and really that message is for all of us to put aside these protectionist measures, have a science-based, market-driven agreement," Bacus said.