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U.S. beef deal with Europe may not have big impact on SLO Co. ranchers, local Farm Bureau says

Posted at 6:50 PM, Aug 02, 2019

An agreement announced Friday between the Trump administration and European Union looks to boost U.S. beef exports nearly threefold, from $150 million to $420 million dollars, but that may not mean much for San Luis Obispo County ranchers.

"This is a tremendous victory for American farmers, ranchers, and of course European consumers because American beef is considered the best in the world," Pres. Donald Trump said Friday.

Some of that beef is raised here in San Luis Obispo County, where the market was valued at just under $48 million in 2017.

"You think about the north part of the county, that's where your cattle country is," said San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau Exec. Dir. Brent Burchett.

The sale of cattle and calves sold during 2017 increased 3 percent from 2016 and prices went up by about 24 percent, according to the most recent county data available.

The rise in sales and value of the beef is a sign of relative stability for the industry, which suffered financially amid long stretches of drought.

But according to Burchett, the bulk of those sales are domestic.

"Here in California, we're more about feeding our local consumers here. That's a bigger market for California producers," Burchett said.

He said that's largely because Europe won't accept a lot of U.S beef.

"There are certain practices we do in the U.S that other countries don't do, so for the most part, most of our cattle are consumed in the U.S," Burchett said.

"The agreement we signed today will lower trade barriers in Europe," Trump said.

But perhaps the biggest barrier is Europe's ban on hormone-treated beef, which Burchett calls "standard" for many American cattle ranchers.

Still, he applauds the agreement.

"Any time we have a new market for us cattle ranchers and farmers, it's a big deal," Burchett said.

Burchett added that the best way to help local farmers and ranchers would be to improve trade deals between the U.S. with Canada and Mexico regarding produce.