There was a coronation, of sorts, in Washington this week, *as President Bush was sworn in for a second term in the White House. While the agenda for the next four years will focus on fighting the war on terror, there also are domestic issues to consider.
The president's State of the Union address is set for February 2nd ... and his Fiscal 2006 budget will be released five days later. That will be an anxious time in farm country, which awaits White House recommendations on farm program spending. Many expect a call for drastic cuts. There also could be an appeal for an energy bill that would promote ethanol production ... and trade deals to re-open the global beef market.
There was some movement in that area this week as the players in the current beef trade dilemmas shifted their focus to issues of identification and traceability.
This week, USDA officials announced they are trying to locate six cows shipped to the U.S. from the same Canadian herd as the animal which tested positive for mad cow disease earlier this month.
Ann Veneman, Former Secretary of Agriculture: "Over and over again, when there is a crisis, USDA is on the frontlines..."
In her final speech as Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman cited animal diseases as a key challenge during her time at the helm of USDA. Nevertheless, Veneman has said repeatedly there is no credible reason not to lift the ban.
Meanwhile, more than one year after the discovery of America's only confirmed case of mad cow disease, U.S. officials continue their efforts to recapture the lucrative export market -- particularly in Japan. And U.S. officials find themselves in the unenviable position of pleading with the Japanese to open their border to American beef while the U.S. border remains closed to Canadian cattle.
Japan this week welcomed a U.S. offer to provide strict verification of the age of cattle being exported... a move that could help to resolve the dispute -- perhaps as early as this summer.
Regardless when the ban is lifted, it appears likely that traceability standards are going to be a paramount concern.
Elise Golan, Economic Research Service, USDA: "Traceability means a lot of things to a lot of different people in a lot of different situations. Even the most widely used definition of traceability, that of the International Standards Organization, is quite broad."
In Washington USDA officials have released a study of the traceability in the U.S. food supply. As policymakers at home and abroad weigh the usefulness of mandatory traceability throughout the supply chain, one fact is certain: developing uniform standards will be difficult.