No question, the advancements that U.S. pork has made in the international arena have meant more dollars to U.S. producers and the industry at large. Today, U.S. export sales exceed 700,000 metric tons of pork and pork variety meats annually to more than 90 different countries. In 2002, the United States exported more than $1 billion in pork and pork variety meats. 

The meat from one in every 12 hogs now heads to an overseas market, versus one in 100 hogs just 15 years ago. Glenn Grimes, University of Missouri agricultural economist, notes that those sales have meant an average of $2.27 per hog slaughtered in the United States during the last 15 years to U.S. producers.

The National Pork Board and U.S. Meat Export Federation work to sell U.S. pork in other markets. Those efforts have set annual sales records in each of the past 11 years. However, this year looks at though that streak may come to an end. Increased competition (largely from Canada), higher pork prices and other countries' waning economies are just some of the reasons why U.S. pork sales have been a bit more sluggish this year.

The national pork checkoff pays for a share of motivating those sales activities. The U.S. government has provided funding as well, and so have other agricultural partners like the American Soybean Assoication and the National Corn Growers Association.

Since the national pork checkoff went into effect, the United States has moved from a net importer to a net exporter of pork. Producers have benefitted from $3.1 billion in gross income since 1987. This is an average of nearly $210 million each year, according to Grimes. 

Looking at 2003, pork checkoff will commit $4.55 million for foreign market development activities– or about 9 percent of the 2003 checkoff budget of $49 million.

"Working through the U.S. Meat Export Federation, these funds are leveraged with millions of dollars from the USDA and grain checkoff organizations to conduct trade education and market promotion programs around the world," reminds Glen Keppy, an Iowa producer, chair of NPB's trade committee and member of MEF's executive committee.

He points to Japan and Mexico as markets that will continue see aggressive consumer marketing programs.  "Other funds are used to educate importers and distributors about the quality and safety of U.S. pork," he notes.

National Pork Board