U.S. Senator Pat Roberts today said Japan's announcement that it will ease restrictions on U.S. beef imports is great news for Kansas beef producers and the U.S. beef industry as a whole.
"I am pleased our Kansas ranchers have additional access to this critical market," Roberts said. "After two years of drought, this is certainly welcome news, especially in the long term, for U.S. beef producers."
Today's announcement would allow imports of beef products from beef cattle 30 months of age or younger.
Japan closed its market to U.S. beef in December of 2003, after the discovery of one cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States. At that time, Japan was the largest export market for U.S. beef, valued at $1.4 billion. Since then, Japan has had restrictions in place on U.S. beef imports, and currently only allows imports of beef from cattle aged 20 months and younger. These restrictions were not based on sound science nor are they consistent with international guidelines.
The United States has spent years putting in place an effective system of interlocking safeguards that has led to the virtual elimination of BSE in the U.S. Because of these efforts, the U.S. has been classified as a controlled risk country by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which indicates that U.S. beef products are completely safe for export and consumption.
"While this is a big step forward," Roberts said, "I encourage Japan to reopen its markets to all U.S. beef products regardless of age or boneless status in order to be consistent with internationally recognized standards."
Senator Roberts is a member of the Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction on trade matters and is a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.