INDUSTRY WELCOMES REOPENING OF BEEF TRADE WITH JAPAN

WASHINGTON -- Cattlemen and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials welcomed the news that trade negotiators from Japan and the United States had reached an agreement that paves the way for resumption of beef trade with the United States, starting in the spring of 2005. ase, such as bovine heads and spinal cords, must be removed and the beef should be from animals verified to be 20 months of age

WASHINGTON -- Cattlemen and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials welcomed the news that trade negotiators from Japan and the United States had reached an agreement that paves the way for resumption of beef trade with the United States, starting in the spring of 2005.

ase, such as bovine heads and spinal cords, must be removed and the beef should be from animals verified to be 20 months of age or younger. The agreement should clear the way for cattle under 21 months of age to be excluded from testing. Until recently, Japan had insisted that all cattle be tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Once trade resumes, officials will review the marketing program after six months, with the goal being to return trade to "more normal patterns," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman in a statement.

Indeed, an economist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association cautioned cattle producers not to assume the agreement will restore trade to the levels prior to Japan's closing the door to American beef. Japan was the largest export market for U.S. beef. Traditionally, one-third of U.S. beef exports had gone to Japan.

The types of beef products shipped command a much higher price there than what they can be sold for in the United States, said Gregg Doud, chief economist, NCBA.

"We have a lot of work to do to regain our position as the leader in this market," he said.

The United States had sold more than $1.7 billion worth of beef to Japan last year before trade was halted due to the December 2003 discovery of one case of BSE in a Washington state cow.

For negotiators, the next step is restoring trade with Korea and other top overseas markets important to U.S. beef producers. The U.S. team was preparing to move on to Korea to continue talks, Veneman said.