Japan lifts restrictions on U.S. beef exports

Local News

For the first time since 2003, United States beef producers will be able to export to Japan without restrictions. 

United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Friday that Japan and the U.S. had agreed “on new terms and conditions that eliminate Japan’s  longstanding restrictions on U.S. beef exports.”

The ban, put in place in 2003, was in response to the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. In 2005, Japan restored partial access to U.S. beef muscle cuts and offal items on cattle 20 months or young in age. And it wasn’t until 2013 that Japan allowed beef and beef products less than 30 months of age into the country from the U.S.

“This is great news for American ranchers and exporters who now have full access to the Japanese market for their high-quality, safe, wholesome, and delicious U.S. beef,” Secretary Perdue said in a statement. “We are hopeful that Japan’s decision will help lead other markets around the world toward science-based policies.”

Japan eliminated its age-based BSE testing on domestic Japanese cattle in April 2017, the USDA says, which served as a precursor for lifting similar age-based restrictions on “negligible BSE-risk trading partners” such as the United States.

According to the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, U.S. beef exports add $300 or more to gross value per fed steer.

“Back then and now, [Japan] is the most valuable U.S. beef export market that we export U.S. beef to,” said Iowa Cattlemen’s Association CEO Matt Deppe.

While many been exports from the U.S. in recent years have been on younger cattle and beef products, the ability to expand the Japanese market following Friday’s announcement is a good sign.

“Anytime we see movement towards more market access, that’s beneficial for prices and producers,” said Dr. Lee Schulz, a livestock economist at Iowa State University. “This is another situation where we’ve seen an increase in market access.”

The USDA estimates that expanded access could increase U.S. beef and beef product exports to Japan by up to $200 million annually.

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