Following the discovery of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in December 2003, U.S. beef and beef product exports fell. Since 2003, USDA has led a multi-agency, full-court press, dedicating significant resources to restore foreign market access for U.S. beef. As a result, U.S. beef shipments had regained pre-BSE volumes by 2011 and even reached record values by 2014. Another central element of the U.S. strategy to maintain and expand foreign market access is insistence on policies that are based on the guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The past seven years have represented the strongest period in history for American agricultural exports, with international sales of U.S. farm and food products surpassing $1 trillion between fiscal years 2009 and the present.
Snapshot of the beef export market in 2003
In FY 2003, U.S. beef exports (excluding beef products) totaled $3 billion (0.9 million tons) to 112 countries. As a result of the December 2003 BSE case, U.S. beef exports fell to $1.1 billion (0.3 million tons) in FY 2004.
Snapshot of the current market
In spite of some remaining restrictions, which USDA continues to prioritize, U.S. beef exports have recovered to pre-2003 levels. In FY 2015, U.S. beef exports totaled $5.8 billion (0.8 million tons) to 112 countries.
USDA forecast for U.S. beef exports
In 2015, U.S. beef production fell to the lowest level since 1993. A strong dollar has also dampened foreign demand for U.S. beef. These factors have contributed to recent volume declines in U.S. beef exports but longer-term forecasts are positive. Expanding production and declining wholesale beef prices will drive shipments higher, but a strong dollar remains a constraint. Global beef demand is expected to strengthen along with a pickup in global economic growth. U.S. beef exports are forecast to rise to $5.3 billion (0.8 million tons) in FY 2017, up from $5.2 billion in FY 2016, with additional gains in sales of beef products expected as well. This is well above the value of 2003 exports and marginally below on volume.
Recent BSE trade successes
USDA has worked to eliminate BSE-related restrictions in 16 countries since January 2015, gaining additional market access for U.S. beef in Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Guatemala, Iraq, Lebanon, Macau, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Saint Lucia, Singapore, South Africa, Ukraine, Vietnam and Brazil.
Due to extensive work by USDA, in May 2013 the OIE upgraded the United States to negligible risk status for BSE, and USDA has aggressively used this status to reopen or expand markets for beef.
USDA continues work to remove all remaining BSE-related restrictions on beef to overseas markets, such as China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Australia.