Sen. Daines: Where to find your next Montana steak? Could be China

If you ever find yourself on the other side of the Pacific homesick for Montana beef, you may soon be able to indulge at a local restaurant or supermarket in China.

In a game-changing move, China recently announced that it would end the ban on United States beef imports for the first time since 2003. This long-overdue decision signals a tremendous boon to Montana’s economy and a milestone decision in a vigorous campaign. China is the second-largest beef import market in the world.

This May, I led a congressional delegation to China determined to break down China’s trade barrier on beef and to broaden Chinese markets to fair commercial markets. During my engagements with Chinese leaders, the first topic I raised was China’s ban on beef to ensure that Chinese officials knew that beef would stay at the forefront of all our dialogues until the ban was lifted. I started my meeting in Beijing with Chairman Zhang Dejiang – the top leader of China’s standing congressional body, the National People’s Congress – with a challenge to open China’s imports to include American beef. I assured Chairman Zhang that Chinese consumers would appreciate the superior quality of Montana beef compared to other providers, if only they had the chance to choose. I provided the chairman a letter I hand-carried to China from Montanan stockgrowers inviting a Chinese delegation to visit Montana and witness firsthand our ranches, capabilities and see that we meet the rigorous protocols that often surpass Chinese food safety standards.

And when my delegation had the opportunity to dine with Zhang Ping in Beijing, the vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, I remarked that the dinner could have been better “if only there was Montana beef on the menu.”

The beef market is a critical commodity to Montana’s No. 1 industry – agriculture. In a state where there are twice as many cattle as people, beef exports are vital to creating Montana jobs and growing our local economy. Montana’s ranchers know that with over 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside of the U.S., access to foreign markets is essential. The facts are clear – our stockgrowers at home and across the U.S. stand to gain from selling Montana beef.

Opening the Chinese market to American beef is a huge win for Montana and our agricultural industry. While China’s initial verdict is positive, significant work remains before exports begin. I will continue to press Chinese leadership to open the market fairly and expediently. Even with this game-changing announcement, my focus to continue to find new frontiers to advance Montana commercial products and services will not stop. I will continue working to expand Montana business opportunities both here – at home and abroad.