Japan has lifted its ban on U.S. beef imports, a move hailed by Iowans who serve on the U.S. House and Senate Ag Committees — but with some reservations.
U.S. beef has been shut out of the Japanese market since December of 2003 when the U.S. reported its first case of Mad Cow. Senator Tom Harkin, who is a Democrat, says today’s (Thursday’s) announcement is only a “partial re-opening” because the Japanese will only accept imports of beef from cattle under 20 months of age. “We’ve got to work to expand it to cattle of all ages,” Harkin says. “It’s really odd. Here, we’ve only had one case of BSE (Mad Cow Disease) I think in this country that came from a cow that came from Canada, if I’m not mistaken. I think they’ve had over 20 cases of BSE in Japan and yet they’re keeping our beef out?…This is just a trade barrier more than anything else.”
Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron in western Iowa, says “audits of U.S. beef plants only took a month to conduct because of strict U.S. safety methods already in place” — but it took three years of intense negotiations to bring about the resumption of beef trade with Japan. King says “U.S. beef is among the safest in the world” and meets all world trading standards. In 2003, the U.S. exported $1.4 billion worth of beef and beef products to Japan.