The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) has announced the recipients of its Distinguished Service Award and Michael J. Mansfield Award. The awards will be presented Nov. 7 at the USMEF Strategic Planning Conference in Tucson, Arizona.
The USMEF Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the pursuit of USMEF's export goals. This year's honoree is Danita Rodibaugh of Rensselaer, Ind., a former USMEF chair and longtime advocate for the U.S. red meat industry. Active in the management of a family farm operation that raises pigs, corn, soybeans and wheat, Rodibaugh is a past president of the National Pork Board (NPB) and has held many key industry leadership roles, chairing the Ethics of Pork Production Task Force and serving on the board of directors of both the National Pork Producers Council and Indiana Pork, the NPB Trade Committee and several committees focused on environmental stewardship.
"I really admire the past recipients of the USMEF Distinguished Service Award, and I am humbled to receive such an honor," Rodibaugh said. "I marvel at an organization like USMEF that can work with so many different agricultural sectors and bring them together to accomplish a common goal. Looking back at my time as USMEF chair and as an officer, it's that kind of collaboration that I am most proud of — working jointly and making key decisions together. I was truly blessed to have such an outstanding officer team when I was USMEF chair."
Rodibaugh added that fostering trust was a top priority during her time in the USMEF leadership, not only among the USMEF officers and executive committee, but also the organization's funding sources.
"Enhancing communication between the various sectors allows USMEF to benefit from the expertise each sector brings to the table and to better understand the challenges we all face," she explained. "When that level of trust is established, it helps us educate fellow producers about the value red meat exports deliver and how exports benefit all of U.S. agriculture."
The Michael J. Mansfield Award is presented in honor of the former U.S. Senate majority leader and U.S. ambassador to Japan who helped form the foundation for U.S. trade relations throughout the world. This year's co-recipients of the award, which recognizes individuals whose leadership has helped expand international trade opportunities, are Barry Carpenter, who recently retired as president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), and Wendy Cutler, vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI).
Carpenter's 50-year career in the public and private sectors included 37 years at USDA, where he led the Agricultural Marketing Service's Livestock and Seed Division. Carpenter oversaw creation of USDA's beef export verification programs, which were critical to restoring market access for U.S. beef following the nation's first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in December 2003. His leadership was also critical in developing video technology for beef yield and quality grading. During his time at NAMI, Carpenter was a highly respected spokesperson for the U.S. meat industry who provided steady guidance on key policy issues and represented the industry on several international governing bodies. His many career honors include Presidential Rank Awards, NAMI's E. Floyd Forbes Award and induction into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame.
"I am overwhelmed at the honor of receiving the Mansfield Award," Carpenter said. "Having worked on trade issues for many years in various capacities, trade is something that I care deeply about, and I never anticipated that I would be honored at this level."
When asked to reflect on the contributions he is most proud of, Carpenter cited USDA's efforts that laid the groundwork for U.S. beef exports' impressive recovery following the BSE-related market closures.
"Coming up with an export verification program that bridged the gap between our government's regulatory food safety scheme and what our trading partners were expecting was just phenomenal," he said. "I don't know how else we could have ever broken that logjam and satisfied the needs of those countries. For some trading partners it obviously worked faster and better than others, but for all practical purposes it was the tool that got us back into all of those markets."
Cutler also has a long history of helping the U.S. meat industry overcome barriers in the international marketplace. Prior to joining ASPI, she had a very accomplished career with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Cutler worked on a wide range of trade negotiations and other initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region, serving as USTR's chief negotiator on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) and leading the bilateral negotiations with Japan under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
When reacting to the Michael J. Mansfield Award announcement, Cutler was quick to emphasize the team approach that underpinned these advancements in U.S. trade relations.
"I am delighted to be recognized for my efforts, but this award also belongs to the other hard-working negotiators with whom I worked so closely," she noted. "By working as a team, we made important inroads into the lucrative and growing meat markets in Asia."
While Cutler knew that USTR had secured very favorable terms for the red meat sector in KORUS, the remarkable success the U.S. industry has achieved in Korea has exceeded her expectations.
"I am pleasantly surprised that the United States has now become the leading beef exporter to Korea, because this was such a sensitive issue during and after the FTA negotiations," Cutler said. "The KORUS model is a great example of a genuine partnership between the U.S. government and U.S. industry. Trade agreements can open markets by eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers, but then it's up to the private sector to take advantage of these opportunities. The U.S. meat industry has done an incredible job of marketing its products in Korea and other international markets."
She emphasized that Korean consumers are benefiting greatly from KORUS because it has made beef and other U.S. agricultural products more affordable.
"In many Asian countries, including Korea and Japan, agriculture has traditionally been one of the most-protected markets in their economy," Cutler said. "As those markets open up and consumers are able to avail themselves of different cuts of meat at competitive prices, consumption increases. At the same time per capita income is also rising in the region, which contributes to more meat consumption."
In addition to receiving the Michael J. Mansfield Award, Cutler will be a featured speaker at the USMEF Strategic Planning Conference. On Friday, Nov. 8, she will update USMEF members on the status of U.S. trade relations in Asia and where she sees opportunities to further increase trade and strengthen economic ties with key trading partners. More details on the conference are available online.