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Letter to President Obama - Russian Trade Barriers of US Poultry

U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to discuss Russian trade barriers on U.S. poultry imports during his upcoming meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Lincoln emphasized that internationally recognized science methodology has proven U.S. poultry processing practices to be safe and that current restrictions are unwarranted. She has continued to push for open-market access for Arkansas's nearly 89,000 poultry producers-- 6 percent of all jobs in the state.

"Arkansas's poultry producers are required by USDA to meet very stringent food safety standards, which help them produce a safe and high-quality product. The Russians have failed to supply a reasonable, scientific explanation for restricting U.S. poultry access to their market to U.S. poultry and I believe that their citing of safety concerns as reason for their trade barriers is baseless. The current economic climate has left many producers struggling and a continued absence from the Russian market, which is worth $100 million annually to Arkansas producers, would only increase the economic uncertainty our poultry farmers already face," Lincoln said. "President Obama's meeting with President Medvedev offers a crucial opportunity to address this issue with the seriousness it deserves."

Over the last three years, U.S. poultry exports to Russia averaged more than $800 million in value, making Russia the single largest U.S. export market. The poultry industry represents over 500,000 jobs in the United States. In Arkansas, the Russian poultry market has been worth as much as $100 million a year, contributing to 88,480 or nearly 6 percent of all jobs in the state.

Lincoln was joined by Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss and 23 other Senators in a letter sent to President Obama today.

Full text of the letter is below.

June 21, 2010

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Next week, you are scheduled to meet with Russian President Medvedev for talks on improved collaboration between our two nations, in advance of the G-8 summit in Canada. While in some areas the level of cooperation between our two countries has improved, irritants remain in that relationship that require attention at the highest level. For the past five months, the Russian Federation has blocked poultry imports from the United States over the use of chlorine rinses in the production process. We believe the stalemate in the negotiations requires the attention of the leaders of both countries. We urge you to include this issue on the agenda of your meeting with President Medvedev to ensure that importation rules are based on science and consistent with international standards.

Over the last three years, U.S. poultry exports to Russia averaged more than $800 million in value, making Russia our single largest export market. The poultry industry in this country represents over 500,000 jobs in the United States and has a significant impact on countless other communities across the country.

Since 1990, Russia has imported U.S. poultry that was processed using chlorinated water to reduce pathogens and enhance food safety. Throughout this period, Russian authorities did not express any concern. Therefore, the current ban seems arbitrary and capricious. Science has shown the use of chlorine solutions to be a safe and cost effective way to maintain food safety during poultry processing. Additionally, we understand Russia is still buying poultry from other suppliers, such as Brazil, where some facilities use the same process as U.S. facilities, without guarantees that they are not using chlorine solutions. This disparity appears to be contrary to the Russian government's assertions that its actions are being taken out of concern for the safety of its population.

The cumulative effect of the actions taken by Russia's government has been to keep U.S. products entirely out of the Russian market. We believe the United States and Russia should work together to promote trade between our two countries and lower barriers that undermine the bilateral relationship. Your meeting with the Russian President in advance of the upcoming G-8 summit offers a crucial opportunity to address this issue with the seriousness it deserves. We urge you to use all means at your disposal to address this situation and we thank you for working with us.


Senator Blanche Lincoln, Chairman
Senator Saxby Chambliss, Ranking Member
Senator Kit Bond
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Richard Burr
Senator Ben Cardin
Senator Tom Carper
Senator Thad Cochran
Senator John Cornyn
Senator Al Franken
Senator Kay Hagan
Senator Orrin Hatch
Senator Johnny Isakson
Senator Mike Johanns
Senator Ted Kaufman
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Senator Mary Landrieu
Senator Richard Lugar
Senator Claire McCaskill
Senator Barbara Mikulski
Senator Mark Pryor
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator John Thune
Senator Mark Warner
Senator Jim Webb

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