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Reopening Japanese beef markets

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new approach to reopening Japanese markets for U.S. beef and urges more beef checkoff funding be directed to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to support the effort.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to visit Tokyo April 5-9 to promote U.S. agricultural exports and indicates he will work towards diffusing the ongoing trade dispute. During a media briefing earlier this week Vilsack told reporters that the Obama administration’s strategy to expand U.S. beef access to Japan will focus on talking through respective concerns in order to create and develop a structure that ultimately leads to reopening of that market.

For more, see Vilsack to urge Japan to improve beef trade.

The Bush administration took an “all or nothing” approach, demanding full market access and rejecting Japan’s proposal to allow imports of U.S. beef derived from cattle 30 months of age or younger. Japan’s current age limit is 20 months or younger.

Vilsack said his goal is to work with Japanese officials to seek a protocol that is compliant with World Organization for Animal Health guidelines. The international body has classified the U.S. as a controlled risk country, meaning U.S. beef is safe regardless of the age of cattle.

“Ultimately, we want as open a market as we can get and we want Japanese consumers to have as much choice as they want,” said Vilsack.

Jon Wooster, USCA President from San Lucas, California, applauded the new approach. “Secretary Vilsack’s announcement signals a respectful, staged plan that will support the rebuilding of confidence in U.S. beef by Japanese consumers.”

“Secretary Vilsack’s approach to gain more access for U.S. beef should be supported by additional beef checkoff funding for a U.S. Meat Export Federation effort to educate and inform Japanese consumers about the significant measures taken in this country to ensure the safest, most nutritious beef in the world,” said Wooster.

Japan closed its markets to all U.S. beef products in 2003 citing bovine spongiform encephalopathy concerns. Prior to the ban, Japan was the largest market for U.S. beef, with annual exports valued at $1.4 billion. Since the ban was imposed, U.S. beef exports to Japan have averaged approximately $196 million. Analysts estimate that the ban results in approximately $1 billion in losses annually for U.S. producers.

TAGS: Outlook
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