The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) concluded its Strategic Planning Conference in Tucson, Arizona, last week with the election of new officers for 2017-2018. Dennis Stiffler, Ph.D., who has served in many volunteer leadership roles for USMEF, was elected USMEF chairman.
“This is a very exciting time for USMEF – we have an extremely engaged executive committee with a lot of talented people,” says Stiffler, who is president of the Texas Division, Halpern’s Steak and Seafood, headquartered in Atlanta. He recently retired as chief executive officer of Mountain States Rosen, a fabricator, processor and distributor of lamb and veal products. “Also, we are getting ready to embark on new executive leadership at USMEF, and it will be exciting to follow that transition through. It is going to be an important role for USMEF officers to play.”
Stiffler has 30 years of livestock, meat industry and international marketing experience, and spent 10 years at major universities involved in teaching, research and extension services. During his tenure in academia, Stiffler traveled abroad on numerous occasions representing both USMEF and the U.S. Grains Council in education and market development programs.
His first interaction with USMEF was back when he was on the faculty at Texas A&M University. He later held various positions in the red meat industry, including the export business. In 2010, as a member of the American Lamb Board, Stiffler was appointed to the USMEF Executive Committee.
“I believe it’s notable that in the 41-year history of USMEF, I am the first chairman representing the lamb sector,” Stiffler says. “I bring that background with me, along with my experience across the entire red meat industry. I was asked many times to go into international markets to work on technical aspects such as meat quality, production practices, product performance and food safety – giving me credibility in that area.
“From a business standpoint, we are in the business of moving product into markets, and to do that you have to match science with consumer preferences.”
Stiffler lauded USMEF staff for its work at the Denver headquarters and in USMEF’s international offices. He also praised longtime USMEF CEO Philip Seng and Dan Halstrom, who succeeded Seng as USMEF president on Sept. 1 and will assume the title of president and CEO on Dec. 1.
“Phil has been a true leader and an icon in this industry, and we all owe him a great deal of gratitude,” Stiffler says. “I want to personally thank him for his leadership, his commitment, his passion for the international marketplace and his tireless dedication to this organization.”
Stiffler then introduced Halstrom, who thanked Seng and recalled their long relationship in the U.S. red meat industry.
“Phil’s tutelage, his guidance and his vison for this industry has been second to none,” Halstrom says, who then shared his thoughts about USMEF’s future opportunities and challenges.
Stiffler succeeds Bruce Schmoll, a corn and soybean producer from Minnesota, as USMEF chair.
Conley Nelson is the new USMEF chair-elect. Nelson is general manager of Smithfield Foods’ hog production division in the company’s five-state Midwest region and served as president of the National Pork Board in 2012-13. Serving as USMEF vice chair is Idaho cattle feeder Cevin Jones, who operates Intermountain Beef, a custom feedlot.
The newest USMEF officer is Secretary-Treasurer Pat Binger of Wichita, Kansas, who heads international sales for Cargill Protein Group. A 30-year Cargill employee, Binger first became involved with USMEF more than 25 years ago. He sees USMEF’s role in the export game as more vital than ever.
“The supply of red meat will continue to grow, so in order to benefit our industry we are going to need to export more product, and we fully expect to be able to do that,” Binger says. “For member companies, the many capabilities USMEF has are extremely important. I feel very good about being a part of this association.”