An amendment that would suspend USDA's rule allowing the resumption of Japanese beef imports into the U.S. passed the Senate Tuesday by a 72-26 vote. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., was made to the FY 2006 appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies and mandates that no funds be expended on the development of the final rule to resume imports of Japanese beef unless the President certifies that two-way beef trade has resumed.
Concurrently, a non-binding "Sense of the Senate" resolution sponsored by Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Col., passed by voice-vote. The resolution urges the U.S. Government to "not permit the importation into the United States of beef from Japan until the Government of Japan takes appropriate actions to permit the importation into Japan of beef from the United States."
The two amendments will be re-considered when representatives from the House and Senate meet to settle differences between their respective FY 2006 Agriculture Appropriations bills since neither measure is included in the House version.
Nelson and Allard also led a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators in urging President Bush to make "restoring market access for U.S. beef to Japan your highest economic priority with Japan," noting that the continued closure was costing the U.S. cattle industry $100 million each month.
The letter, signed by 19 senators, reminds the President that in the 20 months since BSE was first diagnosed in the U.S., the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has implemented "new, scientifically sound BSE controls and substantially expanded its surveillance program." They mention the importance of the beef industry to America's rural communities, and add that the U.S. meat industry has lost nearly 10,000 jobs since BSE was first diagnosed in the U.S., mostly due to lost export markets.
The signatories to the letter, who also included Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., Norm Coleman, R-Minn., Trent Lott, R-Miss., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Conrad Burns, R-Mont., Larry Craig, R-Idaho, Patty Murray, D-Wash., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., John Thune, R-S.D., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Jim Talent, R-Mo., Gordon Smith, R-Ore., Kit Bond, R-Mo., Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., add that given the importance of restoration of trade to their constituents, they "will consider action on measures to address this in the remaining weeks of this Congressional session."