Kitzhaber's trip to Mexico holds promise for ranchers

February 20, 2001 12:00 am

On the list of markets Oregons ranchers have been unable to tap, Mexico, with 90 million residents and a growing middle class, looms large, indeed.

Thus we were pleased that Gov. John Kitzhaber, during his recent four-day trade trip to our nations neighbor to the south, branded beef as one of the states commodities with the brightest future in Mexicos import market.

Mexico has long been a big buyer of products grown in Oregon. But so far the most important of those products are ones grown in only miniscule amounts in Baker County primarily tree fruits and Christmas trees.

But beef was the focus of last weeks trade mission.

Representatives from the beef industry joined Kitzhaber and other state officials in meeting with Mexican agriculture ministers as well as importers and executives from wholesale as well as retail businesses.

The idea, said Dalton Hobbs of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, was to help the states beef boosters understand Mexicos marketplace, information that should help Oregon ranchers find and fill niches in Mexico.

Certainly there could be no better time for such a trip.

The North American Free Trade Act has facilitated the exporting of products from the United States to Mexico, Hobbs said. And, after years in which the pesos poor performance in monetary markets made exporting a dicey proposition, the Mexican economy seems to be strengthening.

Ranchers in Baker County and across Oregon have endured an onslaught of bad news in recent years, ranging from record-low prices to more stringent environmental laws.

Opening new markets in Mexico may not be an economic savior, but we hope it will be the first inoculation of good news as Oregons beef industry recovers from the plagues of the past.