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U.S. cattle group favors ban on Japanese beef, additional sanctions

Two U.S. cattle groups want more help from the government in reopening trade with countries such as Japan and South Korea.

Following the December 2003 discovery in Washington state of an imported Canadian cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), more than 50 countries closed their markets to U.S. beef. Now, almost three years later, these markets still remain largely closed.

Recently, the executive committee of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) voted unanimously to support retaliatory measures hinging on the immediate resumption of beef trade with Japan.

The NCBA Executive Committee voted to support legislation instructing the Bush Administration to institute agricultural and non-agricultural sanctions against Japan if beef trade is not immediately resumed.

The committee also voted in unanimous support of S. 3364, introduced by U.S. Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on June 5, 2006. Nelson's legislation would ban importation of any beef from Japan into the United States until Japan reopens its border to U.S. beef.

Japan ceased all imports of U.S. beef in December 2003, following discovery of the first U.S. case of BSE. The market reopened to a limited range of products in December 2005, but was closed again in January following a technical violation of trade specifications by one U.S. plant on a single shipment of veal.

NCBA President Mike John of Huntsville, Mo., said it has always been the association's preference to resolve the trade impasse with Japan through negotiations based on sound scientific principles, not retaliation. But repeated delays by Japan have forced cattlemen to support more aggressive action.

"As I have emphasized many times, all we are asking for is fair treatment by Japan based on internationally accepted guidelines," John said. "The last thing we want is a trade war, but at some point you just have to say, 'enough is enough.'"

John said NCBA has been a leader in promoting free, fair and reliable trade, because NCBA members believe strongly in this policy and feel that it is in the best interest of U.S. cattlemen. But trade will only benefit America's cattle industry if trading partners act with integrity and accountability.

"It's not always easy to be an advocate for free and fair trade, and NCBA is sometimes criticized for abiding by these principles," John said. "I can accept that, because leadership is about doing the right thing for your industry, not simply doing what is popular. But there comes a time when we must demand cooperation and fair treatment by our trading partners. It's about time they displayed some leadership and integrity as well."

John said he understands the value of the U.S.-Japan trade relationship, but hopes other U.S. industries will see the need for decisive action. Agricultural exports are critical to our nation's balance of trade and the strength of the rural economy.

"This is about more than just beef. This is about the United States being productive, and not settling for being a consumer nation. To do that we must demand that our products are given fair treatment in the world market, and we are calling for immediate retaliatory measures if the border remains shut."

Meanwhile, in an attempt to force South Korea to buy Canadian cattle as well as U.S. cattle, USDA's recent actions of further delaying exports to South Korea is causing losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars a day to U.S. producers, according to R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

"South Korea has made it clear it will not accept beef from Canadian cattle," Bullard continued. "USDA's decision not to move forward with the agreement shows that the packers have too much influence over USDA, and these obstructionist practices are hurting U.S. cattle producers."

In 2003, the U.S. exported a record 2.5 billion pounds of beef valued at over $3.1 billion. In 2005, the U.S. exported less than three-quarters of a billion pounds, valued at less than $1 billion. A most conservative estimate is that the U.S. has lost over $2 billion per year due to lost exports since 2003, according to R-CALF.

Two U.S. cattle groups want more help from the government in reopening trade with countries such as Japan and South Korea.

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