Montana senators say Japan beef deal good for state

Montana Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester reacted favorably Friday on new terms that eliminate Japan’s restrictions on U.S. beef exports, saying it would be good for the Treasure State.

It’s a deal the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates could increase U.S. beef and beef product exports to Japan by up to $200 million annually.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Friday the United States and Japan have agreed on new terms to eliminate Japan’s longstanding restrictions on U.S. beef exports.

The new terms take effect immediately and allow U.S. products from all cattle, regardless of age, to enter Japan for the first time since 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on its website.

Perdue called it “great news for American ranchers and exporters.”

“We are hopeful that Japan’s decision will help lead other markets around the world toward science-based policies,” he said.

Daines, a Republican said in an email that it was a “great opportunity for Montana ranchers.”

“I’m glad to see the (Trump) Administration taking this much-needed step, and I look forward to all the growth it will bring for Montana agriculture.”

Tester, a Democrat, released a statement from his Big Sandy farm, saying that “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.”

Japan banned U.S. beef and beef products in late 2003, following the detection of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy-positive animal in the United States. In late 2005, Japan restored partial access for U.S. beef muscle cuts and offal items from cattle 20 months old and younger. In 2013, Japan extended access to include beef and beef products from cattle less than 30 months old.

In April 2017, Japan eliminated its age-based BSE testing on domestic Japanese cattle, paving the way for similar age-based restrictions to be lifted on negligible BSE-risk trading partners, including the United States. On Jan. 15,  Japan’s Food Safety Commission concluded eliminating the age restriction for beef from the United States, Canada and Ireland posed a negligible risk to human health.

Japan then began discussions with the United States to revise its import requirements in order to align with the BSE guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health, the USDA website stated. 

Tester called it a “step in the right direction” as America should be opening up foreign markets, not damaging longstanding trade alliances.

He alluded to tariffs placed by President Donald Trump against China in a trade war that is hurting farmers and ranchers.

“I will continue to hold this Administration accountable by defending family farmers and ranchers against harmful tariffs and keep pushing to sell Montana beef to the world,” he said.

Trump has Perdue putting together an aid package for farmers after talks with China deteriorated in recent weeks.