The last two weeks have brought together industry leaders from around the globe to network and discuss topics relating to international trade, first at the World Meat Congress in Dallas, Texas and then again at the 30th annual World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.

The theme of this year’s World Meat Congress was “Trusting in Trade,” and while that theme is apt, I believe that beyond trusting in trade, we really—as a unified pork industry—need to trust in our international marketing efforts.

This week at World Pork Expo both United States Department of Agriculture Under-Secretary Ibach and Ambassador Gregg Doud spoke about the importance of trade to agriculture—but neither seemed to (in my humble opinion) provide many glimmers of hope for when we can expect agreements to get signed and tensions to be resolved. Both emphatically stated that pork is “on the tip of the spear” and that is certainly true—we have quickly become the livestock product the most dependent of exports in the U.S.

It would be easy, given our reliance on exports and the stated uncertainty of the trade environment to panic, to grow depressed. Yet—there are many glimmers of hope, and targeted activities underway, to ensure that no matter what the duration of our trade policy challenges, the U.S. pork industry can continue to move product overseas, increase foreign consumer demand, and deliver producer returns on the record-setting trajectory established in 2017.

How will we do this?                                                              

First, by working with our strategic partners. Both Ambassador Doud and Under-Secretary Ibach mentioned the efforts of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and how they work, day in and day out, to ensure that the Administration understands the critical importance of trade to the pork industry, and the urgency with which our industry must have new and existing trade policy challenges resolved.

Those capacity building activities are sometimes frustrating and oftentimes take time and persistence—a quality that NPPC luckily has in spades. The dedicated staff there will continue to beat the drum for our industry on the importance of trade, ensuring that we can once again truly “trust in trade.”

However, we must also work to diversify our export opportunities, working to ensure that we’re not putting “all our bacon in one basket” and that we’re leveraging our networks, partnerships and relationships to move product abroad. We are working with and through the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to identify and develop new and emerging markets, building demand for pork and pork products and working so that our products can capture a larger and larger share of that increasingly large pie.

With the leadership of the National Pork Board International Marketing Committee, we’ve identified some new market opportunities for 2019, and will be deploying targeted resources and in-country staff in those markets to promote our products.

We are also working to gain additional, in-depth consumer insights on those new and emerging markets, working to understand what is truly driving pork consumption, and gain valuable knowledge of our new potential customers and consumers. That knowledge will be a vital crystal ball to help us better target our best markets, delivering maximum return on investment and identifying, and leveraging all potential synergies.

It is these efforts, and the vision and guidance of our leadership that signify to me that while it is important to trust in trade, it is even more important to trust in international marketing. I still believe it’s an exciting time for U.S. pork—after all, we could become the largest exporter in the world this year, overtaking the European Union in the number one spot. And that could happen because of the efforts of our leadership, of our partners, and of the industry overall.

And, it’s because of our collective decision to trust in international marketing.

About the Author: Craig Morris is vice president of International Marketing with the National Pork Board.