Cattle producer members of the National Cattlemenâ€™s Beef Association (NCBA), the largest organization representing cattle producers, see next month as a significant milestone in the push for resumption of U.S. beef exports to Japan.
"We have been extremely patient, giving Japan a generous amount of time to work through its internal processes," explains Jim McAdams, NCBA president and Texas rancher. "But, as of October 2005, it will be a full year since Japanese officials heralded the completion of a framework agreement designed to resume U.S. beef exports to Japan. Weâ€™ve given Japan everything it has requested, and a year after this promise the ban on our products has not budged. Our patience is wearing thin."
Japan initially stopped beef trade with the United States on December 24, 2003 based upon the discovery of a BSE-positive cow in Washington that was imported from Canada. After almost a year of deliberations, on October 23, 2004, U.S. and Japanese officials announced a framework agreement to facilitate the resumption of U.S. beef trade. The agreement would be final following completion of regulatory processes in both countries. Ten months later, on August 1, 2005, Japan removed its domestic100% testing requirement and began testing cattle 21 months and older, considered to be a key step.
"The U.S. beef supply is the safest in the world, and Japanese consumers again deserve the right to enjoy U.S. beef," says Jay Truitt, NCBA vice president of government affairs. "Fifteen years ago, the United States was the first country without BSE within its borders to test cattle for the disease. Cattle producers have led the drive to aggressively build and maintain strict government firewalls against BSE, and we are proud to see these hard-line regulations have paid off."
Since 2004, USDAâ€™s Enhanced BSE Surveillance Program has tested 465,150 targeted animals at highest risk for BSE and has found only one confirmed case, evidence that U.S. firewalls are working and the prevalence of this disease in the U.S. is extremely low, now moving toward eradication. Testing 268,500 animals can detect BSE at a rate of 1 in 10 million adult cattle at a 99 percent confidence level.
"Consumers are extremely confident in the safety of U.S. beef thanks to the aggressive actions we have always taken to put safety first," says McAdams. "My family, along with nearly nine out of ten U.S. households, will eat beef at home in the next two weeks -- thatâ€™s 251 million people. Japanese consumers are also eager to enjoy U.S. beef products and Americaâ€™s cattle producers are anxious to export our, safe, top-quality beef to Japanese families."
Japan is the largest export market for food and agricultural products of the United States. In 2003, the U.S. exported $1.4 billion worth of beef and beef variety meats to Japan. Total trade in beef and beef products was valued at $1.7 billion.
On September 13, eighteen U.S. senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, urging her to make the resumption of beef trade with Japan of highest economic priority in upcoming international talks. Over the past two years, members of Congress, top officials within the Bush Administration, NCBA leaders, and even President Bush have discussed the need to resume beef trade with senior Japanese officials.
"Re-opening this valuable market remains a top priority for NCBA, and we urge continued support from our government leaders at the highest levels," says Truitt.
"Despite the extensive efforts made by the United States, Japan remains closed to U.S. beef exports," says McAdams. "NCBA producer-members expect October 2005 to be considered a critical deadline for breaking down these trade barriers. It is simply unacceptable for this Japanese embargo to cause further economic damage to our industry. Letâ€™s cowboy up and get â€˜er done."