Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus is encouraged by news that Japan is making progress in easing import restrictions that hurt market access for American beef. Today, a Japanese government advisory panel on food safety agreed on recommendations about easing restrictions to allow imports of beef from cattle as old as 30 months, which is up from the current 20 month age limit.
"Today's news is a sign of good progress for Montana beef - but it's not the end of the fight." Baucus said. "Japan's restrictions on American beef are just plain unfair, and I will continue to push Japan to open its markets so good ranching jobs at home in Montana aren't at risk."
As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee with sole jurisdiction over international trade, Baucus has worked consistently to ensure that Montana beef exports have robust opportunities in foreign markets. Last month, Baucus traveled to Japan to meet with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and top minsters in his cabinet to press Japan to ease unfair restrictions. Read more HERE.
Japan currently only accepts American beef from cattle under 21 months of age, despite scientific findings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that all American beef from cattle at any age is safe. 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. American beef exports to Japan would be significantly higher if Japan were to remove its unscientific restrictions on U.S. beef.
In 2011, Japan was the third largest market for U.S. beef. 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.