U.S. Will Pressure Japan to Buy Beef; Mad Cow Issue Called Resolved

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 23, 2004 | Go to article overview

U.S. Will Pressure Japan to Buy Beef; Mad Cow Issue Called Resolved


Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Bush administration this weekend will press Japanese officials to resume buying American beef, four months after a lone case of mad cow disease all but halted overseas sales.

The U.S. beef industry was initially hit hard by the mad cow discovery, but prices have largely rebounded and exports have partially resumed to two of the country's top four trade partners.

"For all intents and purposes, we have this thing resolved within North America. Now we are hopeful that things will go well in Tokyo," said Gregg Doud, chief economist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, an industry group representing ranchers.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman on Dec. 23 disclosed the country's first case of mad cow disease, a fatal brain-wasting disorder formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. The discovery cost the cattle industry about $3.8 billion last year as foreign markets banned U.S. beef, and triggered a broad investigation to eliminate the source of the disease and prevent infected animal tissue from entering the food chain.

USDA reassurances have been effective with consumers, whose demand for beef remains strong. And Mexico and Canada, No. 2 and No. 4 markets for U.S. beef, respectively, this year resumed trade of some cuts of meat, though live cattle trade is still shut down. All together, about one-third of U.S. export markets have been reopened, said Ed Lloyd, a USDA spokesman.

That leaves Japan, the top market for U.S. beef last year with about $1.2 billion in exports, and South Korea, the No. 3 market, as the next major targets for a government and industry anxious to get back to normal. Together, the top four countries accounted for more than 90 percent of U.S. beef exports last year.

J. …

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