Grain is one of the United States’ most important exports, but grain producers are appreciating more and more that when the United States exports beef and pork, it’s really exporting grain.

U.S. corn growers recently visited the European Union (EU), in a team put together by the U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), for face-to-face meetings with EU officials, importers, traders and farmers.

Since the high-quality, mouth-watering flavor of U.S. beef and pork is mostly a product of the animals’ grain and soybean diets, in the past decade, 2.6 million bushels of corn have been exported in the value-added form of $43 billion of U.S. beef and pork exports.

The team took home a new understanding of the opportunities and challenges in the EU market that will help corn growers take advantage of exporting corn to the EU through the value-added form of U.S. red meat.

“The European Union is not a bulk corn importer, but if we can access these markets through U.S. meat exports, then we are still exporting corn,” Rodney Weinzierl, executive director, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, said. “It was beneficial to see how each market in the world is unique.”

EU officials discussed agriculture policy and its future direction, giving the team a new understanding of the ins-and-outs of the EU environment.

Biotechnology issues the EU and the United States differ on were also talked about, including the new testing requirements for Bt10 in corn gluten feed and distiller’s dried grains with solubles entering the EU feed market from the United States.

After meeting with EU feed grain processors to learn about opportunities and barriers to U.S. corn exports, the team was struck by the difficulty in exporting both grains and meat to the EU. The expansion to the EU-25, brings changes in production patterns, which the team talked about with feed manufacturers, meat processors and livestock producers in the Netherlands and Poland, on of the new EU members.

USMEF has been working in the market for 25 years to reduce and overturn trade barriers and increase exports. Visiting the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland, the team observed USMEF activities designed to increase demand for U.S. beef and pork.

“U.S. corn products are benefiting when the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council work cooperatively, and because of these synergies, U.S. corn in one form or other is able to access almost every market in the world,” Weinzierl said.

In 2004, the United States exported 46,316 metric tons of beef and beef variety meat to the EU, a 254 percent increase over 2003, valued at $33.7 million, a 115 percent increase. U.S. pork exports to the EU in 2004 totaled 10,712 metric tons, $30.3 million.

Team members included corn representatives from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Virginia, as well as staff members of the National Corn Growers Association, the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council and the U.S. Grains Council. USMEF and MetaFoods hosted the group to a U.S. corn-fed steak dinner.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry and is funded by USDA, exporting companies, and the beef, pork, corn, sorghum and soybean checkoff programs.

USMEF