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NEBRASKA CATTLEMEN SEEK BEEF TRADE POLICY CHANGE

(January 31, 2008) LINCOLN, NE – Nebraska Cattlemen approved a resolution at the Jan. 30 Board meeting designed to increase beef exports to Japan and South Korea, as well as to other foreign markets. The resolution seeks to have U.S. officials negotiate opening of international beef markets for bone-in beef product from cattle under 30 months of age as part of a stair-step effort to eventual full World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) compliance.

Nebraska Cattlemen will seek to have the National Cattlemen's Beef Association adopt the resolution during its annual convention planned for Feb. 6 - 9 in Reno, Nevada.

Currently, Japan allows boneless beef from cattle less than 21 months of age, but this makes much of U.S. beef ineligible. Japanese officials have indicated a willingness to accept beef from cattle less than 30 months and this would qualify nearly all U.S. beef.

The U.S. Trade Representative and USDA have maintained a hard-line position contending that Japan must allow all U.S. beef because in May 2007 the OIE confirmed safety measures taken here and has listed the U.S. as a “controlled risk” country for BSE. Nebraska Cattlemen agrees with this position in principle, but says it is counter productive for U.S. negotiators not to pursue a step-up strategy.

Nebraska Cattlemen believes the U.S. should maintain its goal of unrestricted beef trade with Japan and South Korea, but trade representatives should negotiate in the interim to allow bone-in, 30-month and under beef. The interim step would make nearly all of U.S. beef eligible for export into these key markets. U.S. producers and foreign consumers would benefit immediately and negotiators could continue to pursue unrestricted trade for the remaining neglible percent.

The current U.S. position of “unrestricted trade or nothing” is hurting Nebraska cattle producers and processors. This position has the U.S. tripping over the dollar while reaching for the dime,” said Nebraska Cattlemen President Larry Smith. “A $60 per head increase in value would mean $300 million per year in Nebraska.

Mike Briggs, NC Feedlot Council chairman, originated the proposal. “Japan has indicated it is willing to accept product from animals up to 30 months of age. We should accept the offer and begin selling that product again into what prior to 2003 was our largest export market.” Similarly, Briggs said, South Korea was the third largest export destination for U.S. beef in 2003. The ban was lifted September 2006 but it took until July 2007 for a relatively significant flow of U.S. beef products into the South Korean market to occur. The United States should negotiate with South Korea to include bone-in beef. Since Korean BBQ dishes utilized short ribs, this would boost the export volume of U.S. beef to this important market.

“Prior to 2003, Nebraska was the largest beef and meat exporting state. We can regain the benefits of that position if we use common sense by giving the customer what they want. The U.S. should negotiate for agreements for the product we can provide consistently and efficiently – that is boneless and bone-in beef from animals up to 30 months of age,” Brigg said.

"Three hundred million - that would be a good economic stimulus," Briggs said.

He added, “This proposal is a good example of how grass roots involvement in Nebraska Cattlemen and NCBA works.”

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