MSGA applauds Rehberg for asking Japan to lift age restrictions on American beef

Last week, Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, asked Japan to lift its restrictions on American boneless beef from cattle aged over 20 months, after the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) removed age limits on boneless beef from countries affected by Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. The request was formally made in a letter dated June 18, 2009 following a policy reversal by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to lift age limits on countries affected by Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

“Montana’s beef producers do everything possible to ensure the safety and quality of their product, and they turn out the best beef in the world,” said Rehberg, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “But obsolete trade restrictions take our beef off the shelves in Japan, and hurt Montana’s economy. Now that the policy behind the Japanese ban has been reversed, it’s time to open markets to Montana producers.”

Japan enacted a ban on U.S. beef imports following the confirmed discovery of a single case of BSE in a Canadian-born dairy cow in Washington State in December 2003. The U.S. beef industry responded with stricter guidelines, new testing procedures, and plant investigations, leading to the resumption of limited beef trade with Japan, and other countries, in 2005.

“I’m proud of Montana’s beef producers and their relentless efforts to reopen the export market with Japan,” Rehberg wrote. “Japan’s age restrictions on beef from American cattle have limited U.S. beef exports to approximately 25% of their pre-BSE levels … With better testing and more stringent safety precautions, OIE came to the wise conclusion that it should no longer impose age restrictions on beef from American cattle. OIE understands the significance of these common-sense testing and safety precautions, and your action is necessary to ensure that Japan follows suit,” said Rehberg in the letter to Trade Representative Kirk.

Letter:

June 18, 2009

The Honorable Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20508

Dear Ambassador Kirk:

As Montana’s Congressman, I’m writing regarding Japan’s restrictions on American boneless beef from cattle aged over 20 months.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recently announced its adoption of a resolution lifting age limits on boneless beef from countries affected by Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. The resolution permits the export of beef from cattle, regardless of age, from countries previously affected by BSE. This comes after OIE had previously limited trade to beef from cattle aged younger than 30 months.

I’m proud of Montana’s beef producers and their relentless efforts to reopen the export market with Japan. I worked to resume American beef exports after Japan halted shipments in late 2003, establishing a dialogue with members of their foreign delegation. Since then, Japanese audit teams have inspected U.S. meat processing plants in an effort to verify consumer safety and lift the U.S. beef ban. Partial trade has since resumed, and all evidence points to the absolute safety of American beef.

Montana is beef country, but Japan’s age restrictions on beef from American cattle have limited U.S. beef exports to approximately 25% of their pre-BSE levels. Montana’s beef producers are suffering as a result. Our long-standing relationship with Japan must remain healthy, and every effort must be made to restore previous trade levels. With better testing and more stringent safety precautions, OIE came to the wise conclusion that it should no longer impose age restrictions on beef from American cattle. OIE understands the significance of these common-sense testing and safety precautions, and your action is necessary to ensure that Japan follows suit.

Your attention to this matter will help ensure Japan removes the current restrictions, which will bring more stability to the 21,000 ranchers who are a part of the Montana beef industry. Thank you for your hard work, and please don’t hesitate to contact my office with any further questions.

Sincerely,

Denny Rehberg
Member of Congress

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