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Reopening of Japanese market welcomed

The mid-December announcement that Japan will reopen its market to U.S. beef was an early Christmas present for U.S. producers. Japan, previously the United States’ largest customer for beef, cut off all imports of U.S. beef in late 2003 when the United States announced that one of its processing plants discovered a carcass headed for the pet food market tested positive for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also called mad cow disease.

During the intervening two years, the Japanese have thoroughly inspected and researched the likelihood that they could be importing BSE-tainted U.S. beef. Their conclusion: The risk of mad cow disease infection from U.S. beef is extremely low and little different from the risks posed by Japanese beef. Reassured that U.S. protocols will protect them from importing BSE-tainted beef, officials earlier this month have given the thumbs up to U.S. beef imports. This is welcome news to the U.S. beef industry, which had lost an estimated $100 million every month the Japanese market was closed.

We also want to commend the assertiveness of the Rocky Mountain Congressional delegation in applying pressure on the Japanese government to reopen the market. Ardent supporters of trade resumption included Colorado senators Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar, as well as, Wyoming senators Mike Enzi and Craig Thomas. All were cosponsors of a U.S. Senate bill that would have slapped over $3 billion in tariffs on Japanese products coming into the United States in retaliation for losses to the U.S. beef industry. The measure would have gone into effect Dec. 31, 2005, had the Japanese not reopened their market to U.S. beef.

We thank rancher Sen. Salazar for his travel to Japan to put pressure on officials and for meeting with the Ambassador from Japan to promote U.S. beef and Sen. Allard’s effort as a veterinarian, in promoting the safety of U.S. beef.

We acknowledge the leadership of U.S. House members who supported similar tariff legislation including Colorado representatives Marilyn Musgrave and John Salazar along with Wyoming Congresswoman Barbara Cubin.

While resuming U.S. beef trade with Japan makes for a great Christmas present, the same aggressive leadership is needed by our Rocky Mountain Congressional delegation on several additional measures which could give independent U.S. beef producers a happy and prosperous new year.

We look forward to working with our regional members of Congress to provide U. S. independent beef producers the New Years celebration they are due.

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