The resumption of U.S. exports to Japan could mean big business to Iowa cattle farmers. After Japan halted its purchases of beef following the discovery of one case of Mad Cow in December 2003, Iowa livestock farmer Scott McGregor says he’d hoped exports would resume more quickly. He calls it “the cow that stole Christmas,” and says politics “kind of got in the middle of things” and delayed the resumption of exports to Japan.

McGregor hopes the trade can be reopened again soon. Negotiators this week said Japan is considering resuming its purchases of beef raised and slaughtered in the U.S. “This really is not a food safety issue,” McGregor says, “it’s an animal-health issue.’ He says U.S. beef is the safest in the world and consumers can rest assured it’s a wholesome quality product.

McGregor, who’s chairman of the Iowa Cattlemens Beef Products Committee, says he thinks it’ll take some time to recover the volume of sales to Japan, which was the largest buyer of US beef in 2003. It’s not going to come back as quickly as it left, he says, saying farmers have lost billions of dollars the last two years because of the barrier to exports. McGregor says Iowa’s fifth in the nation in cattle feeding, “and it’s a very vital part of our economy in the state of Iowa.”