Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and top minsters in his cabinet today to press Japan to ease restrictions against American beef imports that are hurting Montana ranchers.
"Montana beef is the best in the world, and there is no reason to block Montana ranchers from selling to Japan," Baucus said. "These unfounded restrictions hurt Montana ranching and the jobs that depend on it. Today I took my case for Montana beef straight to the top in Japan, and I won't stop fighting until we get victory for Montana ranchers."
In 2011, Japan was the third largest market for U.S. beef. But, despite scientific findings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that all American beef is safe, Japan currently only accepts American beef from cattle under 21 months of age.
Japan instituted the ban on beef from cattle above 21 months in 2003, causing beef exports to Japan to fall from $1.4 billion in 2003 to $469 million in 2009. Since 2009, beef exports have rebounded, reaching $874 million in 2011. Still, American beef exports to Japan would be significantly higher if Japan were to remove its unscientific restrictions on U.S. beef - something Baucus has long fought for.
Overall, Japan is the fourth-largest market for U.S. agricultural exports, valued at $11.8 billion in 2010. And Japan remains the largest purchaser of Montana wheat, accounting for over 50 percent of Montana's 116 million exported bushels in 2011. Still Japan's average agricultural import tariff of 15.7 percent is among the world's highest for industrialized countries.