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AMI, NCBA Letter to President Bush: Push for Full Restoration of Beef Trade with Japan

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"It has been more than a year since the Government of Japan and the United States Government entered into agreement to restore mutual beef trade. Yet trade has not resumed," says a letter to President Bush from industry leaders J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute, and Terry Stokes, CEO of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Boyle and Stokes said that the agreement stated “the necessary modifications to Japanese and U.S. regulations would be completed expeditiously so Japan and the United States will resume two-way beef trade immediately after completing their respective procedures.” And while they indicate that they are encouraged by the recent progress made by the Government of Japan’s Prion Expert Committee and Food Safety Commission, they point out that the procedures “have not been addressed in an expeditious nor immediate manner.”

The letter noted that “cattle producers and beef processors are also very concerned about the conditions of access to the Japanese market included in the agreement and currently under review. U.S. animal health authorities find no scientific basis in the current Japanese restriction regarding the age of cattle.” Current estimates from USDA indicate the potentially eligible product that could meet the Government of Japan’s requirements would be approximately 7-8% of our current domestic production, making the amount of eligible cattle and products substantially less than what was previously marketed to Japanese consumers. “It is critically important for you to press for immediate access under the current agreement and to request that the Government of Japan’s process for allowing beef from cattle over 20 months of age begin immediately,” they add.

Under requirements set by the Organization of International Epizootics’ (OIE), there should be no cattle age requirement for a country with a risk level comparable to the U.S . “OIE guidelines require a country with the risk level of the U.S. to remove specified risk materials and to have an effective feed ban in place for more than eight years – two standards that the U.S. meets. Additionally, in the 23 months since an initial case of BSE was diagnosed in the U.S., USDA has implemented new, scientifically sound BSE controls and substantially expanded the BSE surveillance program. These new actions complement other BSE controls dating back to 1989 – 14 years before the first BSE case was discovered,” Boyle and Stokes wrote.

They reiterated that the beef industry is a “pivotal economic component of many rural communities,” and that companies operating in these rural communities “are responsible for producing what we believe is the safest food supply in the world.” “Of USDA inspected beef facilities, more than 73 percent are small, family-owned businesses with a single manufacturing plant. Nevertheless, since December 2003 the U.S. meat industry has lost jobs, reduced take home pay, and even closed plants - mostly attributable to lost export markets,” they said.

For a copy of the full letter, click here:

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