"While Japan's announcement is an important step forward, much work lies ahead to reopen the remaining 40-plus markets around the world that still are closed to U.S. beef exports, especially with regard to the Asian market share that for the past two years has been captured by Australia," says R-CALF USA President and Co-Founder Leo McDonnell.
The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recognizes that '[t]he importation of animals and animal products involves a degree of disease risk to the importing country,' and, as the USDA confirmed in its Final Rule, OIE guidelines provide a scientific basis for countries to determine their own appropriate level of protection, and, therefore, establish their own import requirements.
R-CALF USA has discouraged the U.S. government from relaxing its higher import standards without first obtaining an international consensus on the adequacy of lesser standards.
"R-CALF believes we urgently need an aggressive, comprehensive global strategy to upwardly harmonize global import standards for beef, and these standards must be based on the latest scientific research, as well as provide the best in protection of both animal health and food safety," McDonnell emphasizes. "These improved standards should be administered in a transparent and efficient manner, and give both producers and consumers the utmost confidence in the safety of these products. Countries should not be allowed to ban U.S. cattle or beef products with arbitrary, non-transparent standards."
At the same time, McDonnell notes, the U.S. needs to address its own import standards for cattle and beef.
"While we struggle to negotiate even the most minimal access for our exports to foreign markets, we are throwing open the door to a much broader range of imports from abroad," he explains. "Today, cattle and beef imports into the U.S. face lower standards than our exports must meet overseas, giving foreign countries an excuse to keep their markets closed to our exports as long as they can point to lower standards applied to beef imports here at home.
"This situation is unacceptable to U.S. cattle producers, and R-CALF USA urges Congress and the Administration to take the following steps to restore global export markets for U.S. beef:
- Allow voluntary BSE testing by U.S. packers;
- Move quickly to close loopholes in the U.S. feed ban that were identified by an international scientific panel convened more than 18 months ago by the USDA;
- Adopt the most stringent BSE risk mitigation measures recommended for both imports and exports by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), pending an international agreement on BSE standards;
- Take the lead in bringing countries together to upwardly harmonize BSE standards that would allow trade of safe beef products to resume and prevent any further global spread of the disease as well.