American cattlemen are cheering a decision by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to ease a decade-long restriction on imports of US beef. The decision, which took effect February 1, was announced by US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies who can now — as a result of this agreement — increase their exports of US beef to their largest market for beef in Asia,” said Ambassador Kirk. The restriction stemmed from the 2003 discovery of a single cow in Washington State that had bovine spongiform encephalopathy (more commonly known as mad cow disease). In response to this lone case of BSE, Japan banned all imports of US beef. Three years later, that ban was eased to allow meat from cattle 20 months or younger. Last month’s decision permits the importation of meat from US cattle 30 months old or younger. The news is a welcome boost for the beleaguered US cattle industry, which has been grappling with rising feed costs and brutal drought conditions.
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