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.
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.