USDA announces beef export deal with Japan

PHOTO: Angus cattle on pasture.
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For more than a decade, Japan has had tight restrictions on U.S. beef after a cow tested positive for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease. Friday, the USDA announced those restrictions are gone.

Japan banned U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of a BSE-positive animal in the United States in 2003. From 2005 until 2017, Japan had varying levels of restrictions based on the age of the cattle.

The new conditions will take effect immediately and the USDA says the expanded access could mean as much as a $200 million yearly increase in beef product exports to Japan.

Julie Ellingson, executive vice president with the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, says Friday is a great day for the state’s cattle industry.

“Any additional markets and expansion of markets like we’ve seen is a shot in the arm and dollars in the pocket to beef producers,” said Ellingson.

Japan was already a leading export market for U.S. beef. Ellingson adds Friday’s announcement sends a strong message to trading partners across the world that the U.S. won’t allow countries to block or tax their products with non-scientific criteria.

North Dakota isn’t the only state gaining from the change. Montana senators were praising the new terms Friday.

"Increasing access of U.S. beef into Japan means great opportunity for Montana ranchers. I'm glad to see the Administration taking this much-needed step, and I look forward to all the growth it will bring for Montana agriculture," said Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.

"Putting American beef fully back on the menu in Japan will help our cattle ranchers grow their operations and continue to make a living off the land. This is a critical step in the right direction because we should be opening up foreign markets, not damaging longstanding trade alliances," said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.