The U.S. Meat Export Federation plays the lead role in opening and expanding export markets. Call them the big dog, the BMOC, or the franchise player, no organization has more clout or more knowledge about 'what condition our condition is in' when it comes to trade with Western Hemisphere or the Pacific Basin countries. They occupy the role of the speedy wide out as well as the big guy shoring up the middle of the offensive line. Phil Seng, the organization's CEO, is the all-star, hall-of-fame quarterback.

And 2016 was as close to a sack-free trading year as we've had in a long time. The USMEF has just announced "Exports of US beef and pork products finished 2016 on a high note as pork exports reached record volumes while beef exports logged the largest monthly volume in December."

USMEF said "Pork export volume reached a record 2.31 million metric tons (mt) in 2016, up 8% year-over-year and 2% above the previous high in 2012, according to USMEF. Export value climbed 7 percent from a year ago to $5.94 billion. For December, pork exports totaled 222,635 mt, an 18% year-over-year increase, valued at $564.2 million, which represents a 20% increase."

To spike that pigskin in the end zone and do a porcine happy dance, exports accounted for 25.8% of total pork production and 21.5% for muscle cuts, an increase of 24.2% and 20.8%, respectively, over 2015. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $50.20 in 2016, up 4% from the previous year. The December average was $56.06, up 24%.

In other words, exports are solid gold, the cash cow (or cash pig) of America's animal agriculture. Now is not the time to be playing around with our trade commitments and creating uncertainty about our role as a reliable trading partner. Trump's desire to "renegotiate" NAFTA and leave TPP in the dust could lead a sudden plunge in our export business. With the today's ag economy resembling an old-fashoned wake, Washington needs to be searching for all the trade advantages it can find.

USMEF says capitalizing on duty-free access through NAFTA and the lower duties negotiated in the U. S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), U. S. red meat exports to this region have grown substantially. The dollar potential of an equally open trading opportunity with the TPP countries offers a breath-taking bonus for American agriculture.

The TPP nations can put some serious dollars on the kitchen table. The USMEF said demand for beef in Asian markets drove growth in US beef exports. "For the year (2016), exports of beef advanced 11% in volume to 1.19 million mt and 1% in value to $6.34 billion compared to 2015. For December, exports totaled 116,847 mt, a 24% increase year-over-year. USMEF said this was the largest monthly volume since July 2013 and the largest ever for December. Export value jumped 22% to $619.1 million in December.

Exports in 2016 accounted for 13.7% of total beef production and 10.5% for muscle cuts, which represents increases of 13.1% and 10%, respectively, compared to 2015. December exports accounted for 15.6% of total December beef production and 12.1% for muscle cuts only, USMEF says.  Each segment increased more than 2 percentage points from a year ago and was the highest since 2011. Export value per head of fed slaughter declined 6% to an average of $262.17. But the December average was $301.97 — up 14% and the highest in nearly two years, according to USMEF.

Tampering with that kind of growth is dangerous. There is a small chance that a better deal might be reached. The much bigger and more realistic chance is suddenly shunned trading partners will look elsewhere, searching for reliable sources. Even worse, an angered ex could retaliate in unexpected ways, creating an ever increasing economic crisis and opening the door to regional rivals like China.

Crazy exes and the damage they can do?  Miranda Lambert sang about that a few years ago.