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Japan Agrees To USDA Age Scale

posted on February 11, 2005

Sources in Washington say USDA already may be rethinking the proposed cap on farm program payments. After initially saying the cap would be on combined farm programs payments ... everything from direct payments to LDPs and counter-cyclical payments ... USDA now is mulling whether those should be per program caps, much as they are now.

Clearly, there's much to sort through. The same can be said on trade issues involving U.S. beef. For months now, we've been reporting on touchy trade negotiations in Canada and Japan. The two-pronged talks have been inspired by concerns over sporadic cases of Mad Cow disease that closed U.S. markets to Canadian beef ... and Japanese markets to American beef. Now, gradually, there's been progress, noted by a breakthrough this week on the Pacific front.

Japan Agrees To USDA Age Scale This week, Japanese officials agreed that USDA methodology to determine the age of cattle would be sufficient. The inspection technique, known as "A40", helps identify animals between 12 and 17 months of age. This classification is lower than the 20 month age limit agreed to by Japan late last year. The acceptance of A40 testing means USDA may not require U.S. cattle producers to keep records on each and every animal sold in the near future.

The current belief, certified by the independent international science agency O-I-E, is that Mad Cow does not appear in animals younger than 30 months.

Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture: "I continue to look forward to that day, where we set a date and, literaly, work toward that date for the resumption of trade."

Bill Bullard¸ CEO of the Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, was not impressed. Bullard stated that cattle producers have heard several announcements like this over the past six to eight months but none were associated with a completion date. For Bullard, a real sign that things are moving along will be when he hears the Japanese are changing their existing food safety laws.

There also was a change on the Canadian front. In what appears to be a move to calm some fears, cattle over 30 months of age will not be allowed across the border if the proposed rule takes effect in March.

Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture: "Top priority we both agreed upon was protecting human health and animal health. And making sure that our decisions are based upon science."

Even with the announcement, more lawmakers are joining those objecting to opening the Canadian border.

Tags: agriculture animals beef cattle diseases food safety Japan livestock Mad Cow meat news trade USDA