Baconeers, do you like your bacon to be affordable? How about available whenever you want to buy it?
For America’s pig farmers, trade is a huge part of keeping bacon available around the world. Free-trade agreements with countries like Mexico and Korea are essential to the viability of pig farmers, and we need more of them with countries like Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Pig farmers depend on trade to keep them financially healthy so they can keep providing you with affordable, nutritious, and delicious bacon. It’s a complex topic, so we enlisted the help of an expert to tell us how and why it’s important for the future of your bacon.
Parts of our interview are below. At the end of this article, if you fill out a short, one-minute survey, you’ll be entered to win a special bacon prize.
We can’t stress enough how important trade is to protecting our bacon. By reading this and filling out the survey, you’re doing your part for the entire pork industry. You can do even more by sharing this article with your friends and family. We know they love bacon, too.
*Responses have been edited slightly for clarity and length.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Maria Zieba, and I’m the Director of International Affairs for a large trade association focused on protecting the livelihoods of America’s 60,000 pork producers. I’m originally from Los Angeles and I came out to Washington, DC as an intern for the United States Department of Agriculture, and have pretty much worked in international trade and agriculture my whole career.
Editor’s note: We asked her for a fun fact and she said she spoke three languages, which made us incredibly jealous and intimidated.
“Trade” is a word that means a lot of different things to different people. Can you tell us what it means for today’s global economy?
Maria: I think that trade means that because we live in a global world you can pretty much get anything you want within a matter of days. Because we’ve become so interconnected, everything becomes easily accessible.
Editor’s note: That’s bacon whenever you want it!
Let’s get to the bacon… How much do American pork farmers rely on trade?
Maria: The industry would shrink without it. Pig farmers operate in very rural parts of the country. Some towns may have 1,300 people and 1,000 of those are employed by the pork industry. It can be the driver of a whole economy.
Can you tell us exactly what a “free-trade agreement” is?
Maria: A free-trade agreement is essentially a contract between one or more parties. When we negotiate free-trade agreements, it’s pretty much sitting down and negotiating terms of a trade deal with another country.
Most countries in the world have agreed to a set of principles, standards, and tariffs for certain products. In a free-trade agreement, countries revise the terms, making it more attractive and profitable to do business with one another by, for example, eliminating tariffs. Countries agree to open their markets based on specific terms, creating competition and opportunity for both. America’s pig farmers are happy to compete at home and anywhere in the world because of their high-quality product and very efficient operations.
How much impact does international trade have on American jobs nowadays, especially with regard to pork production?
Maria: Exports are directly responsible for over 110,000 US pork jobs (and over half a million in related jobs) across the country. These jobs range from the farmer, the person that is driving the truck to move animals, the person that is working in the ports, and many more. Those people have jobs because we exported close to six billion dollars of pork and pork products last year.
Almost all of the bacon we produce, we consume here. We export almost no bacon. But we do ship out other parts of the pig that we don’t use, like livers and kidneys, to countries where they are in high demand. They are exported because Asian countries are willing to pay top dollar for those cuts of the animal. So, the ability to trade represents considerable value for American pig farmers, especially when you consider that about 97 percent of world’s population growth will take place outside the U.S.
Editor’s note: Baconeers, this basically means we are selling the parts of the pig no one eats here for a lot of money, which gives American pork farmers more time and resources to make even more delicious, crispy bacon for you.
Wait, so shipping pork to other countries means there’s less for hard-working Americans?
(Editor’s note: She literally laughed.)
Has a previous free-trade agreement with another country helped our pork production?
Maria: The U.S. has free-trade agreements with 20 countries. We ship more pork to these countries than we do to the rest of the world combined. And, the competition that results from free trade is good for everyone. In Colombia, for example, our free-trade agreement drove up pork consumption per person from 8.15 lbs. in 2006 to 18.95 lbs. in 2016. If we have more free-trade agreements and pig farmers know the U.S. is aggressively pursuing free-trade-agreements, farmers might increase how many hogs they have. As they increase the number of hogs, the supply of bacon would go up.
Editor’s note: Which means more bacon for you (and us… because of course we want more, too).
We hope you enjoyed reading our conversation with Maria and learning a bit about why free trade is so important for the pork industry and a healthy supply of bacon.
You’ll find a button below to a short survey that will do three important things:
- help us do our part for pig farmers and the pork industry
- help us do our part for your bacon
- enter you in a drawing for a free bacon basket
Thanks, Baconeers. Stay crispy.