Russia was one of the hottest markets for U.S. beef during the first half of 2012, a trend upon which the beef checkoff has capitalized through trainings and promotions.

Coming off a record performance in 2011, beef and beef variety meat exports to Russia were up 17 percent in volume (84.2 million pounds) and 57 percent in value ($162.2 million) year-on-year through the first half of 2012.

Looking ahead, prospects for continued export growth are bolstered by Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Though Russia's invitation to join the WTO became official in December 2011, the Russian Parliament just recently (in late July) passed legislation to complete its accession to the WTO.

"The duty on frozen beef muscle cuts will remain unchanged at 15 percent," explains Thad Lively, senior vice-president for trade access for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), contractor to the beef checkoff.

"However, the U.S. beef industry is already benefiting from the WTO accession because of Russia's commitment to increase the quota on U.S. beef imports. That quota was only 47 million pounds in 2010 and 92 million pounds last year, but for 2012 it has been increased to 132 million pounds."

To say that the Beef Checkoff Program is promoting U.S. beef far and wide in Russia would be an understatement. Two promotional events this summer were separated by nearly 7,000 miles and eight time zones.