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Agriculture

CSU's international work benefits the agricultural industry

November 29, 2012
by Craig Beyrouty

Beef. It's what's for dinner. In Korea.

Dr. Craig Beyrouty, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences The College of Agricultural Sciences in late August teamed up with the U.S. Meat Export Federation to host a group of editors from Korea’s leading lifestyle magazines. Hosts provided visiting editors with information about quality and food-safety practices in every step of the U.S. beef industry supply chain, from Western cattle ranches to swanky Manhattan steak houses.

A window on the U.S. beef industry

The first-time tour provided a transparent window on the U.S. beef industry and answered questions from key influencers in an important export market.

Scientists with Colorado State University’s highly regarded Center for Meat Safety and Quality gave the Korean editors research-based insights about food-safety measures through the supply chain, as well as information about consumer trends and the impact of sound production practices on meat quality. Our Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center was a main stop on the cross-country itinerary.

The significance

Here’s the significance: Korea was the No. 3 market for U.S. beef exports a decade ago, but that came to a screeching halt in 2003 with a scare over bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad-cow disease or BSE. Korea reopened to U.S. beef in 2008, and since then has rebounded to a No. 5 export market position, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, based in Denver.

The educational trip was part of an ongoing effort to rebuild and grow this market – and other Asian markets that increasingly demand U.S. beef as many Asian consumers shift tastes in protein.

Our interaction with Korean editors offers a telling example of the value of Colorado State University’s international work. Economics is the bottom line for much of our international teaching, research and engagement.

Importance to Colorado

What does that mean in Colorado? To continue the case example, beef is by far the top commodity in Colorado, where agriculture contributes an estimated $40 billion each year to the state economy. In 2011, cattle and calves generated more than $3 billion in sales, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

State leaders have repeatedly noted that agriculture – specifically, the robust export of beef and beef products – gave Colorado a substantial economic cushion during the recent Great Recession, then helped the state recover.

Heart of our land-grant mission

Patrick Martin, associate professor of landscape ecology, studies the likely effects of climate change on tropical cloud forests; the work is relevant to high-altitude Colorado forests.This illustrates how our college’s international engagement supports Colorado agriculture and the broader state economy; these international efforts are at the heart of our land-grant mission of service to Colorado, its citizens, and its agricultural industry.

Indeed, international work is a proud tradition for the College of Agricultural Sciences. For example, Emeritus Professor John Matsushima, to be honored by the National Western Stock Show as 2013 Citizen of the West, helped open Japan to U.S. beef exports through his international work. Colorado beneficiaries included beef producers Monfort of Colorado Inc., now a key holding of global company JBS USA.

International efforts

Students traveled to China for a conference on precision agriculture, and learned more about the world while there.What are other benefits of our college’s international efforts? Here are a few:

  • Reciprocal knowledge

There is an altruistic aspect to much of our international work. Yet knowledge gained from CSU research flows many ways. Our researchers are examining food, land and water systems, for instance, in grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa; in tropical montane cloud forests of Hispaniola; on struggling farms in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and at sheep and goat operations in Mali.

Discoveries are applicable in Colorado because of similarities in geology, ecology, resource availability, even challenges in risk management. As we know, studying a problem through a different lens often provides new insights.

  • Students

To prepare students for success in a global economy, we must expose them to international challenges, partnerships, and problem-solving. Our students need the language competency, cultural competency, geographical, historical, and political knowledge that arise from direct international study, and from knowledge gained through professors with extensive international experience.

Our students recently have traveled to China, India, Costa Rica, New Zealand and France for learning that has expanded their life experiences, knowledge – and preparedness for professional work in a complex, global agricultural industry. Students who become citizens of the world are better prepared for life ahead.

  • Security

CSU agricultural economists work on water-management projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan to improve food security, and thus international security.Consider global food riots that occurred in 2007-08 and 2010-11 as a result of crop failures and skyrocketing food prices. Such unrest is a clear sign of the need for international agricultural development; put simply, food security contributes to overall security.

Agricultural scientists accept an important responsibility on this issue. It’s no coincidence that several ongoing international projects in our college – such as work to improve soil fertility in Ethiopia and water management in Afghanistan – receive funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The federal agency funds research that holds promise for boosting economic development in the world’s poorest nations while also improving international trade and security for the United States.

Nations may have borders – but knowledge has no boundaries. We’re all better for that, as is the agricultural industry to which we are devoted.

Dr. Craig Beyrouty is dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University. He may be reached at (970) 491-6274 or craig.beyrouty@colostate.edu.