The U.S. Meat Export Federation will honor longtime state beef council executive Richard Wortham and former assistant U.S. trade representative Sharon Bomer Lauritsen at its upcoming Strategic Planning Conference, which will be held virtually Nov. 10-13.
Wortham will receive the USMEF Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes an individual for leadership and lifetime contributions toward the achievement of USMEF's mission to enhance demand for U.S. red meat exports. Bomer Lauritsen is the recipient of the Michael J. Mansfield Award, which USMEF established in recognition of the U.S. Senate majority leader whose decades of government service advanced U.S. trade relations throughout the world.
Wortham has held leadership positions at the Texas Beef Council for 30 years, including 24 years as executive vice president. When he retires in December, helping expand the global footprint for U.S. beef will be one of the hallmarks of a career dedicated to advancement of America's cattle and beef industries.
"I'm proud to accept the USMEF Distinguished Service Award, but I do so on behalf of the producers who have served on the Texas Beef Council and our hard-working staff," he says. "The award is really a reflection of the outstanding commitment they've shown to international marketing for more than three decades, and the great working relationship between TBC and USMEF."
Wortham praises TBC's volunteer leadership for having the foresight to not only invest in international marketing, but actively participate in the global promotion of U.S. beef.
"Beginning in the late 1980s, as our board considered the opportunities emerging in the global market, we wanted to make sure that our commitment was consistent and continued to grow," he says. "The partnership with USMEF has been great for us. Whenever you can help meet the growing appetite for U.S. beef in the international marketplace while also adding returns back to the U.S. industry, that's a win-win opportunity for all of us."
In addition to being one of the largest contributors to international marketing programs for U.S. beef, TBC has taken a very active role by hosting teams of prospective buyers, conducting educational seminars for chefs and other international food industry professionals, and traveling to key markets to participate in promotional events.
"When our producers have the opportunity to experience the international market firsthand and work side-by-side with the terrific staff members USMEF has located throughout the world, there is just no substitute for that," Wortham says. "Having them share that experience with fellow producers and other industry leaders has really enhanced TBC's commitment to global marketing and the pride we have in expanding our customer base across the world."
Bomer Lauritsen retired from the U.S. government this year with 29 years of service, most recently as the assistant U.S. trade representative for agricultural affairs and commodity policy. She has led U.S. agricultural trade negotiations with key trading partners such as Japan, South Korea, China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union, and at the World Trade Organization. Following her retirement from USTR, Bomer Lauritsen founded AgTrade Strategies LLC, a consulting service on U.S. agricultural trade policies.
"It really is a great honor to receive this award from USMEF, which has been such an important partner for my team at USTR over the years," Bomer Lauritsen says. "Whether working through BSE-related issues around the world in the early 2000s, the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations or, most recently, the revised beef agreement with the European Union, USMEF members and staff always gave us the kind of guidance we needed as trade negotiators. So I see the Mansfield Award as recognition of a great team effort, which makes it even more special."
While the United States withdrew from TPP prior to ratification, Bomer Lauritsen says TPP negotiations helped pave the way for later agreements that will benefit the U.S. red meat industry. This includes the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement that entered into force this year, leveling tariff rates for U.S. pork and beef with those of major competitors in the Japanese market.
"Many of us who worked on TPP were disappointed that the U.S. has not ratified it, but it certainly laid the basis and the framework for the U.S.-Japan agreement and made those negotiations run more smoothly," she says.
Bomer Lauritsen also worked extensively for many years on improving access for U.S. beef in the European Union, including recent negotiation of a U.S.-specific share of the EU's duty-free High-Quality Beef Quota. This change helps ensure year-round, duty-free access for U.S. chilled beef in this high-value market.
"The memorandum of understanding we negotiated provides the stability needed to allow U.S. ranchers and exporters to gear up and increase the quantity of cattle that meet the EU's stringent import requirements," she says.
"Having worked closely with both Richard and Sharon for many years, I'm very pleased that the USMEF leadership chose to honor them with these awards," says USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. "For U.S. red meat to thrive in the international marketplace, we must have effective front-line negotiators who create a fair global playing field and forward-thinking industry leaders to help us capitalize on these opportunities. Their tremendous efforts have provided great returns for the U.S. meat industry and will continue to pay dividends for decades to come."