by Bill Even

When I led South Dakota’s Office of Economic Development, I learned five tried-and-true success principles. First, retain the business you have. Second, expand your existing businesses. Third, find ways to attract new businesses to your area. Fourth, it is twice as hard to win back a customer that you lose. Fifth, economic development is all about relationships.

Many of these lessons also apply to pork exports. I was reminded of this on a recent trade mission to Mexico with National Pork Board leaders (see page 20). On the right are key takeaways that show the importance of your Checkoff investment in export markets.

Exports Put More Dollars in Your Pocket

U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports in the first quarter accounted for 27.2 percent of total pork production, adding $52.42 in value per head, according to USDA. In March, pork and pork variety exports were up 28 percent year-over-year, adding $54.93 per head in value.

America Will Remain a Producer AND an Exporter

America’s vast land resources, water supplies, arable soils, stable government and hard-working, efficient farmers mean the United States is destined to be both a pork producer and an exporter. To paraphrase author Ayn Rand, “America is blessed with the miraculous power of the saints – only it is not the power to heal, but the power to produce.”

Pork Puts More Protein on the World’s Table

As incomes rise around the globe, people’s purchasing power increases. This is happening not only in Mexico but also in other emerging economies from Asia to South America. Pork is perfectly positioned to benefit because these emerging economies tend to have youthful, growing populations, cultural heritages linked to pork and a continuing love of pork at mealtimes.

You Can’t Take Things for Granted

While North America is a mighty economic engine, other competitors such as the European Union, Brazil, Russia and China also have the power to be big players in international trade. Tough competition in the international markets means you cannot assume existing relationships will run on autopilot.

Mexico, for example, has 45 trade agreements worldwide and continues to build new alliances around the globe. Compare this with the United States, which has only 20 free trade agreements. We must assure buyers that the United States will remain a reliable, consistent source of high-quality pork. If we do not, buyers will look elsewhere.

Steady Investments Pay Big Dividends Over Time

In the National Pork Board’s annual budget, $2 of every $3 goes into pork promotion, both at home and abroad. Of that, a third goes into international marketing. The Pork Board works closely with the USMEF not only to build relationships and to promote pork worldwide but also to coordinate our messages when possible.

This includes our new efforts to align Hispanic-language marketing campaigns in Mexico and the United States. Your Checkoff investment and our marketing strategies add up over time. A key goal? Enhance exports, which remain one of our industry’s economic development success stories.