Despite a recent setback in trade with Japan, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns promised cattle producers he hopes to resolve the Japan situation "directly" and "expeditiously."
Johanns expressed regret over Japan's reinstated ban on U.S. beef since January 20 when a bone-in veal shipment failed to meet the agreed upon terms announced December 12, 2005 to resume trade of U.S. beef to Japan.
Speaking to nearly 5,000 cattle producers and members of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Johanns called the ban a "temporary setback," and emphasized, "this shouldn't have happened." Regarding when trade might be restored, the Secretary said he aims to complete the FSIS and OIG investigations and implement the necessary recommendations expeditiously.
Significant progress has occurred in recent weeks toward reopening export markets that closed following the December 23, 2003 BSE case. Within the last month, partial trade has been restored with some of the United States' key export markets including Mexico, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Earlier this week House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte hinted at sanctions against Japan if measures weren't taken quickly to resume U.S. beef trade. But Johanns is firm about wanting to avoid sanctions. "We're going to do everything we can to resolve the situation with Japan," says Johanns. "I hope we don't need sanctions."