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Agricultural News

A Look Back at Seven Years of the 20 Month Beef Standard in Japan for US Beef

Thu, 06 Sep 2012 16:33:54 CDT

A Look Back at Seven Years of the 20 Month Beef Standard in Japan for US Beef

After starting and stopping the process multiple times over the last seven years- Japan is moving toward relaxing restrictions on American beef imports, which had been limited because of fears about BSE- or mad-cow disease.

A panel of Japanese experts recommended Wednesday that imports of beef from cows up to 30 months old be allowed, up from the current 20-month age limit.

The proposed change applies to beef imports from the U.S., Canada, France and the Netherlands- which means that it removes the argument by some anti- American groups in Japan that the government is bowing to pressure from the United States.

The panel's finding will go to the Health Ministry, which will invite comments from the Japanese public before a change is implemented. Officials in Japan predict that could be later this year or early next year.

We look back on today's Beef Buzz at some of the frustration that has built up over the years from US officials and cattlemen over the slowness of the Japanese to ease this trade restriction. Today's reprot features comments from the middle of 2010 when former US Secretary of Agriculture and current Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns was venting about the dragging of the feet by Japan on the 20 month versus 30 month standard. Johanns had suggested publically that perhaps it was time to call the Japanese ambassador before Congress and inform him that until Japan could offer an iron clad guarantee about the safety of every auto part coming from that country- there would be restrictions imposed by the US. He adds that type of attitude makes little sense- but he saw a parallel to autos from Japan to our beef from the US- a product that he contended at the time (and still contends) is perfectly safe and has virtually no chance of carrying the BSE prion.

Japan banned U.S. beef imports in 2003, after the "Cow that Stole Christmas" was found up in Washington state- a Canadian Dairy Cow that tested positive for BSE. . In 2005, Japan allowed imports of beef from animals 20 months or younger. Animal Disease experts questioned the science that the Japanese used to justify the 20 month rule, but it has stayed in place for seven years.

A move to the 30 month standard will mean a more consistent year round supply of beef can be accessed by the Japanese marketplace- and a couple of years ago- when we thought this trigger was going to be pulled- the NCBA and CattleFax were estimating that this decision could mean a billion dollars annually more in beef exports to Japan. Is that still a valid number? It's hard to say, given higher beef values and short supplies of beef in the US- but it does mean that folks with orders to fill from Japan don't have to deal with the restricted supply of beef that will work in that market- and means Japan will be in the US market year round instead of just seasonally when those younger carcasses were easier to source.

Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's Beef Buzz. The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network- but is also a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Be sure to check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.



Ron Hays Beef Buzzes with Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska- one of many who has been frustrated with Japan and their restrictions on US Beef
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