June 30, 2017
By Ellie Isbell
Wilcox County cattleman Jake Harper, above, and Lawrence County cattleman Mitchell Henry, left, are optimistic about future beef sales to China.
Excitement among beef farmers is high after President Donald Trump’s administration announced a trade proposal allowing U.S. beef imports into China as early as July 16.
Cattle farmers across Alabama are hopeful the proposal will increase market prices after a sub-par 2016.
“Last year, the market took a very sharp downturn, and this year, prices have already been reasonably high,” said 23-year-old Lawrence County cattleman Mitchell Henry. “I’m hopeful the market will climb even higher with this trade deal.”
American farmers like Wilcox County cattleman Jake Harper are eager to tap into the $2.6 billion Chinese beef market. Harper said he was thrilled to learn the 13-year-old ban could be lifted.
“I think it’s a win-win situation,” said 61-year-old Harper. “If we can access the 1.3 billion people in China, I think it will help every phase of the cattle business.”
According to Alabama Farmers Federation’s Nate Jaeger, Alabama cattlemen can expect indirect market benefits. However, determining the trade proposal's value, particularly for Alabama farmers, is difficult, he said.
“We know more legitimate access to one of the fastest-growing beef markets in the world is positive,” said Jaeger, the Federation’s Beef Division director.
For some cattlemen, a slight revenue increase can determine their cattle operation’s prosperity.
“Hopefully we will see a rise in the cattle market, and it will be profitable for people to stay in the cattle business,” Harper said.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue commended the work of U.S. and Chinese officials on the deal.
“We will once again have access to the enormous Chinese market, with a strong and growing middle class, which had been closed to our ranchers for a long, long time,” said Purdue in an earlier statement. “When the Chinese people taste our high-quality U.S. beef, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll want more of it.”