Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s optimistic Japan will soon lift its embargo on American beef, perhaps within a matter of weeks. That nation’s Food Safety Committee is reconsidering its decision to ban beef imports from the U.S. and should have an answer in early December.

Grassley says it’d be a huge trade move for that door to reopen. Grassley says it’ll impact the entire nation if Japan starts accepting beef again, to the tune of one-point-five billion dollars. Japan is the U.S.’ largest overseas market. He says Iowa ranks as the nation’s fifth-largest beef producer. While it may be good news for Iowa’s beef producers to have that market reopen,

Grassley says consumers may not be as gleeful. He says Japan not buying U.S. beef has been the main reason for the drop in beef prices. With more demand, those prices could rise. Grassley says “I’m frustrated that this process has become so drawn out, but I hope the end is in sight.”

Grassley met with Japan’s top U.S. diplomat last month and says he’s encouraged by the new indications that Japan may be changing its stance on beef. The ambassador from Japan said, when meeting with Grassley three weeks ago, that a decision would be made before President Bush’s visit to Japan, which Grassley says is scheduled soon. Just a few days ago, Japan’s ambassador visited several beef operations next-door to Iowa — in Nebraska — the nation’s number-one beef producer.

Grassley says “The science behind the safety of U.S. beef is sound and there’s no reason that Japanese consumers should continue to be denied access to the beef that we Americans eat every day.”