In action taken Wednesday, the Executive Committee of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association voted unanimously to support retaliatory measures hinging on the immediate resumption of beef trade with Japan.
The NCBA Executive Committee voted to support legislation instructing the Bush Administration to institute agricultural and non-agricultural sanctions against Japan if beef trade is not immediately resumed. The resolution was offered by Bill Zimmerman, a cattleman from Foley, Minn., who serves as NCBA Region III vice president. The committee also voted in unanimous support of S. 3364, introduced by U.S. Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on June 5, 2006. Nelson's legislation would ban importation of any beef from Japan into the United States until Japan reopens its border to U.S. beef. The resolution supporting S. 3364 was introduced by Eden, Idaho, cattleman Cevin Jones, NCBA Region V vice president.
Japan ceased all imports of U.S. beef in December 2003, following discovery of the first U.S. case of BSE. The market reopened to a limited range of products in December 2005, but was closed again in January following a technical violation of trade specifications by one U.S. plant on a single shipment of veal.
NCBA President Mike John of Huntsville, Mo., says it has always been the association's preference to resolve the trade impasse with Japan through negotiations based on sound scientific principles, not retaliation. But repeated delays by Japan have forced cattlemen to support more aggressive action.
"As I have emphasized many times, all we are asking for is fair treatment by Japan based on internationally accepted guidelines," John says. "The last thing we want is a trade war, but at some point you just have to say, 'enough is enough.'"
John says NCBA has been a leader in promoting free, fair and reliable trade, because NCBA members believe strongly in this policy and feel that it is in the best interest of U.S. cattlemen. But trade will only benefit America's cattle industry if trading partners act with integrity and accountability.
"It's not always easy to be an advocate for free and fair trade, and NCBA is sometimes criticized for abiding by these principles," John says. "I can accept that, because leadership is about doing the right thing for your industry, not simply doing what is popular. But there comes a time when we must demand cooperation and fair treatment by our trading partners. It's about time they displayed some leadership and integrity as well."
John says he understands the value of the U.S.-Japan trade relationship, but hopes other U.S. industries will see the need for decisive action. Agricultural exports are critical to our nation's balance of trade and the strength of the rural economy.
"This is about more than just beef. This is about the United States being productive, and not settling for being a consumer nation. To do that we must demand that our products are given fair treatment in the world market, and we are calling for immediate retaliatory measures if the border remains shut."