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Japan, U.S. Resume Trading Beef

WASHINGTON -- The Japanese market is now open to U.S. beef products. Under a new agreement, the United States may resume exporting beef and beef products from cattle 20 months of age and younger to Japan.

The move ends a two-year ban that began after the discovery of the first case of BSE in the U.S. in December, 2003.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns said: "Resuming beef trade with Japan is great news for American producers and Japanese consumers, as well as an important step toward normalized trade based on scientifically sound, internationally recognized standards."

Beef products may begin shipping as early as next week; however, those shipments will be limited to beef derived from animals 20 months and younger. Before the market was closed in December 2003, Japan bought $1.7 billion worth of beef and beef products and accounted for the most lucrative market for American beef. The discovery of mad cow disease in both nations had prompted the trade restrictions. The U.S. has banned Japanese beef since 2001, and Japan closed its doors to U.S. beef since 2003.

Since then, more than 10,000 jobs have been lost in U.S. meatpacking plants, according the American Meat Institute. The organization's president and c.e.o., J. Patrick Boyle, said in statement that while AMI is pleased Japan has reopened its market, "it's important to remember that a large percentage of the U.S. beef supply will remain ineligible for export to Japan due to the restrictive age limitation."

Boyle urged the Japanese government to adhere to the standards of the Office of International Epizootics (OIE), which state that no age restrictions should be imposed on the United States, which have a low risk level for BSE.

For its part, the American Farm Bureau Federation echoed approval for Japan's long-awaited announcement that it will resume importing U.S. beef and beef products. Said AFBF president Bob Stallman, "It's heartening that this issue has been resolved in a manner that benefits U.S. beef producers, as well as Japanese consumers."
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