Gov. Terry Branstad is slated for a trade mission Japan and China next month to promote Iowa beef and pork products. Representatives of both industries, who will travel with the governor, say the two Asian countries present significant economic opportunities.
"This trade mission comes at a critical time for Iowa pork producers," says Al Wulfekuhle,a pig farmer in Buchanan County and the president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. "We’re facing tough economic times. We have prices below the cost of production right now. So expanding the market for Iowa pork in Japan and China is a key part to bring profitability back to our industry."
Wulfehuhle notes that sales to Japan, the largest export market for higher-quality Iowa pork products, are down 2.7 percent this year due to European frozen pork imports. Since the China is the world's leading consumer of pork, Wulfehuhle says he hopes the trade mission will garner new growth opportunities and strengthen existing relationships.
The Japanese are also the leading buyers of Iowa beef products. U.S. beef is not currently sold in China, but that may soon change since it's lifting its ban on U.S. beef imports
The world's most populous country stopped buying U.S. beef in 2003 when Mad Cow Disease was confirmed in Washington State. Chris Freland of the Iowa Beef Industry Council says she’s cautiously optimistic about the possibility of Iowa chuck rolls, short plates and short ribs soon being sold in Chinese grocery stores.
"Obviously market conditions have changed," says Freeland, "but we know that with a 1.4 billion population, a rising middle class, that Asian market, especially in China, will open another vein for us."
When Branstad leaves for Asia, the U.S. will have elected its 45th president only a few days prior. This new leader who almost certainly will be against the Trans Pacific Partnership, which means Branstad may be slated from some high stakes diplomatic conversations.
The TPP, favored by both Branstad and President Obama, is currently stalled in Congress. The trade agreement would lower tariffs among the U.S., Japan and 10 other countries.
Iowa’s beef and pork industries support the TPP as well, citing expanding export opportunities. But both Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton say the trade deal would hurt U.S. works.
"So we’re going to have to renegotiate, but governors like me understand how important trade is to the economies of our state," says Branstad. "I want to make sure that regardless of who wins the presidential election, that we are doing everything we can to open these markets."
China is not included in the TPP. But Donald Trump, who Branstad has endorsed, says he’ll impose a 45 percent import tariff upon if he becomes president.