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Japan’s beef ban draws action from U.S. Senate
By Jane Houin
Ohio Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. cattle producers are not the only ones frustrated by Japan’s 22-month ban on U.S. beef going into Japan. Senators Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are introducing bipartisan legislation in an effort to regain this valuable market for America’s cattle ranchers.

The bill calls for tariffs on Japanese products if Japan does not reopen its important domestic market to U.S. beef.

“U.S. beef is among the safest in the world,” said Sen. Conrad. “There is no scientific basis for Japan to continue blocking our exports. If Japan does not accept our beef, we will impose tariffs to compensate for the damage they have caused our ranchers, who are suffering from Japan’s trade embargo. The time has come for Japan to live up to its commitments and reopen its borders to American-grown beef.”

Japan’s ban on imports of U.S. beef began Dec. 24, 2004 - one day after the USDA announced the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a Canadian-born Holstein cow from Washington state. Since January 2004, the United States has been in negotiations with Japan to resume beef trade. At that time, 90 percent of the $3.862 billion beef and beef variety meat export market was closed to U.S. product.

Last October, the U.S. and Japanese governments released a joint press statement announcing an agreed upon framework resulting in the resumption of U.S. beef exports to Japan following an earlier meeting of President George Bush with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi where Bush expressed U.S. expectations for the resumption of beef exports to Japan.

Negotiations have continued with various U.S. leaders from the White House, Cabinet, Senate, House, USDA and industry organizations traveling to Japan and meeting with and Japanese officials since that time. Still, implementation of the resumption of U.S. beef exports has failed to materialize.

“Despite the efforts of even the highest office in our nation’s government, Japan continues to keep American beef out of their country,” said Sen. Roberts.

Roberts said he was troubled that negotiations with Japan had deteriorated to this level, noting the Japanese Food Safety Commission (FSC) had again failed to reach an agreement to remove the blockade to U.S. beef imports with four of the Commission’s 12 members not even showing up for the last meeting.

The Senate legislation will require the U.S. Department of Treasury to implement additional tariffs on goods grown, produced or manufactured in Japan unless the U.S. Trade Representative certifies that Japan has reopened its market to American beef by Dec. 15.

“Clearly, Senate leaders are detecting the intense level of frustration from cattle producers across the countryside, and like us they are frustrated with the inactivity of the Japanese Food Safety Commission,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President and Texas cattle producer Jim McAdams. “We know the possibility of renewed trade with Japan is on the horizon, and we support any efforts from the Senate impelling Japan’s FSC to expedite the process.”

Cosponsors of the bill include Senators Wayne Allard, (R-Colo.); Max Baucus, (D-Mont.); Kit Bond, (R-Mo.); Sam Brownback, (R-Kan.); Conrad Burns (R-Mont.); Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.); Norm Coleman, (R-Minn.); John Cornyn (R-Texas); Larry Craig, (R- Idaho); Mike Crapo, (R-Idaho); Byron Dorgan, (D-N.D.); Mike Enzi, (R-Wyo.); Tim Johnson, (D-S.D.); Blanche Lincoln, (D-Ark.); Harry Reid, (D-Nev.); Ken Salazar, (D- Colo.); Jim Talent, (R-Mo.); Craig Thomas, (R-Wyo.); and John Thune, (R-S.D.).

“America produces some of the highest quality beef in the world,” said Sen. Thune. “Our standard for excellence is respected by nations worldwide, and Japan should be no exception. Our cattle and ranching industries are a source of pride for America and a key component of U.S. economic growth and global competitiveness. Japanese leaders must follow through with the good-faith commitment they made last year to resume imports.”

The NCBA estimates the economic loss to the U.S. cattle industry as a result of this embargo at $31.14 billion per year in lost export premiums coupled with the impact of the additional supply on the U.S. market. Japan is the largest export market for food and agricultural products from the U.S. In 2003, the U.S. exported $1.4 billion in beef and beef variety meats to Japan, with total global U.S. beef exports worth approximately $3.8 billion.

“Japan has chosen to ignore internationally recognized science and has instead based its food safety on emotional, politically-driven arguments,” said Roberts. “Free trade is a two-way street. More importantly, in the context of the pending negotiations in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization, I urge my colleagues to support this bill because it sends the message to American producers that we will stand up for American agriculture in our trade negotiations.”

NCBA urges Senate members to support this legislation and asks members of the House of Representatives to take up Rep. Jerry Moran’s (R-Kan.) House Resolution 137, which calls for the U.S. Trade Representative to immediately impose retaliatory trade sanctions against Japan if it continues to delay meeting its obligations as part of the understanding reached October 2004.

“I think I speak for all cattlemen when I say it’s time,” said McAdams. “Through NCBA, cattlemen have continued to loudly express their frustrations with this non-science based trade ban. These Senators’ leadership is appreciated.”

Since 2004, USDA’s Enhanced BSE Surveillance Program has tested more than 500,000 targeted animal at highest risk for BSE and has found only one confirmed case - evidence that U.S. firewalls are working at the prevalence of this disease in the U.S. is extremely low at present and moving toward eradications according tot the NCBA.

For more information from NCBA regarding the Japanese embargo, including a timeline of events, go to http://hill.beef.org/japan

This farm news was published in the November 16, 2005 issue of Farm World.

11/16/2005