The Meat Importers’ Council, Inc. (“MIC”) was formed in 1962 as a non-profit national trade association of members engaging in the purchase, importation, handling and sale of imported meat, mainly fresh frozen beef, in the United States.
The first meeting of an Executive Committee of the MIC was held on June 19, 1962 in New York City. Those present were:
- Sydney Washer, Chairman, John Thallon & Co., Inc.
- John Ward, The Tupman Thurlow Co., Inc.
- Eli Jacobson, Chicago Dressed Beef Company
- Frank Arma, Commodity Service Corporation
- David Magaziner, A. J. Mills & Co., Inc.
- Arthur Hartog, Thomas Borthwick & Sons (USA) Ltd.
- Kenneth Roberson, International Packers Ltd.
- George Pattison, Canada Packers, Inc.
- Si Silverman, S & W Imports, Inc.
Mr. Ray Schlotterer was appointed Secretary and he was requested to set up By-laws and arrange to incorporate in the State of New York. Mr. Schlotterer was also requested to send out membership applications with a set initiation fee of $100.
The principal goals as stated in the By-laws are: The Corporation is a voluntary organization which operates without pecuniary profit to itself or any member. The purposes of the Corporation, as stated in its certificate of incorporation, and only to the extent that said purposes are lawful, are as follows:
To foster the trade, commerce and interests of importers and exporters of fresh and/or frozen and/or cured and/or cooked and/or canned meats; to seek and obtain relief from unlawful or burdensome exactions, statues and regulations; to work with importers’ and exporters’ associations, domestic or foreign governmental bodies and others toward solutions to industry problems; to procure uniformity and certainty in customs and usages of the meat trade; to distribute accurate information to its members and to the public; to settle differences and promote free intercourse between its members and those with whom they deal.
Mr. George Pattison was elected as the first Treasurer in 1962. In the intervening years other Treasurers were Messrs. Bernard Bowman (Bernard Bowman Corporation), Moritz Velleman (Ovimpex, Inc.), Edward Henderson (A. J. Mills & Co., Inc.), George McNeely (Ballagh & Thrall, Inc.), Richard Atkinson (A.S.C.-Meyners Company), Stuart Leifer (Pierce Trading Corporation), Mitchell Pincus (Berns & Koppstein) and currently Donald Stewart (Stewart Miller, Inc.).
The first Annual Meeting of MIC was held on September 23, 1962 at The Palmer House in Chicago, Illinois during the American Meat Institute Annual Convention. The Secretary reported that MIC’s membership comprised twenty-three companies. While MICA’s membership grew over the years into the hundreds, it has since declined as a consequence of the combine effects of industry consolidation, exporters establishing their own offices in the U.S. and direct imports by end users.
The 1962 Annual Meeting agenda discussion included:
- Inspection of mutton and related questions.
- The standardization of markings.
- A future meeting between representatives of the Australian and New Zealand Meat Boards and representatives of U.S. livestock interest.
Back in 1962 Americans were generally unaware that it was the importation of lean fresh frozen boneless beef that greatly increased their ability to enjoy, at affordable prices, hamburgers, franks, luncheon meats and many processed convenience foods. Americans on the go, those with low incomes and retired on fixed incomes, traditionally find these processed meat items to be a prime source of nutritious, low-cost, enjoyable food.
The first meeting of the Board of Directors was held on April 14, 1964 in New York City. The Secretary presented a copy of the Certificate of Incorporation of the Corporation, which was filed in the office of the Secretary of State of New York in March of 1964, and the Constitution and By-laws of the Corporation, subscribed by all of the charter members of the Association, were unanimously approved by the Directors.
In 1969 the name of the Corporation was amended to the Meat Importers Council of America, Inc. (“MICA”) and further amended to the Meat Import Council of America, Inc. in 2011.
Since the Chairmanship of Sydney Washer from 1962 to 1966, the following have served as Chairmen of the MICA:
- Kenneth Roberson, International Packers Ltd., from 1966 to 1969
- John Ward, The Tupman Thurlow Co., Inc., from 1969 to 1973
- William O’Reilly, John Thallon & Co., Inc., from 1973 to 1977
- Al Leifer, Pierce Trading Corporation, from 1977 to 1982
- Graeme Goodsir, Canada Packers, Inc., from 1982 to 1984
- George McNeely, Ballagh & Thrall, Inc., from 1984 to 1986
- Richard Atkinson, A.S.C. Meat Imports, Inc., from 1986 to 1988
- Al Leifer, Pierce Trading Corporation, second term from 1988 to 1990
- David Jackson, The Tupman Thurlow Co., Inc., from 1990 to 1991
- Edgar Staren, Starmill, Inc., from 1991 to 1993
- Joel Berg, JBJ Trading Corporation, from 1993 to 1996
- Peter Maloney, Louis Dreyfus Corporation, from 1996 to 1998
- Richard Atkinson, A.S.C.-Meyners Company, second term from 1998 to 2000
- Peter Maloney, Louis Dreyfus Corporation, second term from 2000 to 2002
- Jeffrey Isenmann, Swift and Company, from 2002 to 2004
- David Rind, Rind International, from 2004 to 2006
- Stuart Leifer, Pierce Trading Corporation, from 2006 to 2008
- Steve Sanger, Orleans International, from 2008 to 2010
- David Rind, Rind International, second term from 2010 to 2012
- Kim Holzner, JBS USA, from 2012 to current
In the early 1960’s, the Meat Importers Council engaged the law firm of Barnes, Richardson & Colburn of New York City as their Legal Counsel. Messrs. Joseph Bradley Colburn, James H. Lundquist and Rufus E. Jarman, Jr. and Matthew T. McGrath have been in charge of the MICA account at Barnes, Richardson & Colburn over the years.
Additionally, Mr. Jarman served as Secretary for several years beginning in 1966, following Arthur Hartog. Other MICA Secretaries have been Richard King, Kenneth Roberson, William Morrison and Lawrence (Laurie) Bryant. Mr. Morrison joined in 1979 to fill the newly created position of Executive Director (which includes the Secretary’s function) and occupied that position until 2001. In 2001 Laurie Bryant joined MICA when William Morrison retired and occupies the position today.
Over the years, Barnes, Richardson & Colburn has been instrumental in assisting MICA’s efforts in dealing with the U.S. Congress, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Customs Service, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and U.S. International Trade Commission on meat imports, and specifically on quota matters, and handling cases challenging laws restricting the free sale of imported meats, canned or fresh frozen, and various meat products.
Since its inception, MICA has also coordinated with groups representing foreign suppliers, initially mainly Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, and subsequently the Central and South American supplying countries.
Exporters of fresh, frozen and processed meats to the U.S. are located in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Honduras, Iceland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and the European Union. Australia, New Zealand and Canada are the largest suppliers.
In 1968 the firm of John J. Madigan Associates was engaged as Economic Advisor to the Council. In 1970, after Mr. Madigan’s retirement, the firm was run by George L. Abraham and then changed its name to Abraham & Associates, Inc.
Abraham & Associates, Inc. continued to provide economic service to the Council until the retirement of George L. Abraham in 1992. At that time Dr. Richard Andersen of Sparks Companies Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee became Economic Advisor to MICA and was followed by Leonard Steiner of Steiner & Company in 2002. Leonard Steiner conducts Economic Workshop Sessions at MICA’s meetings and also posts monthly market reports on the MICA website.
In 1973, MICA’s Board and membership approved the Guidelines for the Settlement of Fat Claims. These Guidelines, amended on several occasions, are recommended conditions of trade between buyer and seller relating to imported meat sold on a guaranteed chemical lean basis, where no other understanding exists. They have been well received in the trade. The most recent amendment to the Guidelines was in 2012.
As of 2013 MICA’s members total over 120 business organizations, and they account for the great majority of U.S. imports of fresh frozen beef covered by tariff rate quotas (TRQ) as well as imports of other meat products. In addition to importers, members of MICA include exporters, users, steamship companies, port authorities, warehousemen, truckers, laboratories, customs brokers and others who derive a benefit from the import trade
For its first eighteen years, MICA’s office was located in New York City. In 1979 its office moved to Arlington, Virginia, adjacent to the nation’s capitol for easier access to branches of government affecting MICA’s members. In 2010 MICA moved out to Reston, Virginia to co-located with the North America Meat Processors Association, which then merged with the National Meat Association in 2012 to become the North American Meat Association. MICA moved to the current office in downtown Washington, D.C. in 2013 when NAMA relocated their office there. MICA is staffed by a full-time Executive Director who reports to its Chairman and Board of Directors.
In addition to an annual meeting held in the fall of each year during the American Meat Institute’s Annual Convention, MICA conducted meetings throughout the country during the year at Gulf Coast and West Coast locations. The West Coast Meetings were held in conjunction with the National Meat Association’s Annual Convention. In 2001 the Gulf Coast and West Coast meetings were discontinued to be replaced by a mid-year Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. The first of these meeting was to be held on September 13, 2001 but was cancelled following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Since 2011 these meetings have been held in combination with the NAMA Washington Leaders Conference.
For years MICA’s importer members operated under the Meat Import Act of 1979 and 1964 (Public Law 88-482) which provided for the imposition of meat controls on certain fresh, chilled and frozen beef, veal, mutton and goat meat products.
The 1979 law mandated quantitative import controls if imports were expected to exceed 110 percent of the formula quantity. The 1979 Act added a so-called “countercyclical” approach to computing the allowable import level. The net effect of the 1964 and 1979 laws was to curtail the supply of imported lean beef in spite of an ever-increasing need for this product. To this day, the United States does not produce lean, boneless manufacturing type beef in sufficient quantity to satisfy demand.
From its inception, MICA has always opposed all restrictions and quota limitations. It went on record with the 93rd Congress to repeal the then present law applicable to imported meats, P.L. 88-482. At the Chicago Annual Meeting that year, Chairman John Ward reported that: “Through the efforts of this Council we were able to obtain the suspension of the meat quotas for the year 1973 by a Presidential Proclamation, and as a result roughly 40% more meat will be imported this year.”
Through the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations in the 1990’s, MICA promulgated its opposition to continued quota and tariffs on imported meat products.
At the conclusion of the Round Public Law 88-482 and the Meat Import Act of 1979 were officially repealed, replaced by a tariff rate quota allowing an annual base amount of 697,000 metric tons of “in-quota” beef.
The U.S. tariff rate quota allows Australia to enter 378,214 MT, New Zealand 213,402 MT, All Other 64,805 MT. Uruguay and Argentina are guaranteed 20,000 metric tons each, and Japan 200 MT. Under NAFTA both Canada and Mexico are exempt from the tariff rate quota. A new ad valorem duty to apply above the base amount started at the 31% level and reduced 26.4%. In the period since the tariff rate quotas were introduced a number of free trade agreements has expanded access further particularly with Australia, Chile and Central America. In these cases the “in-quota” tariffs were removed and additional “in-quota” access has been provided.
While the Uruguay Round changes made significant progress towards freer trade, a great deal still remains to be done. Since implementation, significant TRQ allocations have gone unused and the lack of a reallocation mechanism has prevented countries with small TRQs being able to access these. The result has been that in some years large volumes of beef were imported at the 26.4% duty rate. A high MICA priority has been to establish a procedure for “temporary” TRQ reallocation but this has been unsuccessful because of the requirement for the holders of the underutilized TRQ to agree to any reallocation.
MICA has also been active in opposing barriers to access for sheepmeat. An example is the TRQs that were imposed on lamb imports in July 1999. MICA supported efforts to have the TRQs removed which was successfully achieved in November 2001.
Other significant priorities in recent years have included:
- To seek better communication with the domestic producing industry, both directly and through the Cattlemen’s Beef Board in implementation of the “check-off” program. To this end MICA has been an active participant in the “check-off” both through representation on the Board and as a contractor for promotion programs undertaken in the highly populated northeast region.
- Cooperating with Government and foreign supplier representatives to handle food safety concerns, which are of increasing importance to all segments of the meat and food industries.
In recent years phyto-sanitary issues have become a greater impediment to supplying the U.S. market. The most significant of these occurred when FSIS decided to implement point of entry testing of manufacturing beef for E. coli 0157:H7. The implications of this action were very serious for the import trade because a positive test had the potential to result in a widespread recall if product from the same production date had already entered the U.S. and been ground with domestic beef. In order to avoid this major risk it was necessary for suppliers to develop lotting systems that would limit the impact to only the load that was being tested. MICA worked with overseas suppliers to develop lotting systems that FSIS accepted as being able to achieve this.
- Seeking to counter old and new forms of domestic protectionism which continues to spring up notwithstanding considerable advances in the level of knowledge about imported meat and its important positive role in the U.S. economy. The introduction of country of origin labeling is an example of the protectionism that exists in one sector of the domestic industry. Despite the importance of exports to the U.S. cattle industry, and a W.T.O. ruling that the COOL regulation infringes international trade rules, the regulation remains in place. In response to the W.T.O. the regulation has been amended, however the amendment has made it even more trade distorting for cattle imports from Canada and Mexico. The W.T.O panel review of these changes is pending.
It is MICA’s belief that imported frozen boneless meat forms an essential part of the historic total U.S. supply of meat. MICA continues to seek the end of all restrictions in order to benefit U.S. consumers, the economy and, of course, its friends and members.