Congress is debating how to funnel aid to hurricane victims, including Florida citrus growers. In fact, election season seems to always put lawmakers in a giving mood. The Senate, for example, passed a nearly $3 billion aid package this week for farmers and ranchers hit by drought and frost.
Providing help to the beef industry may prove a tougher sell. There have been tantalizing rumors in recent weeks of a breakthrough on the Japanese ban on U.S. beef. That ban went into effect, you'll recall, after the discovery last winter of a single case of Mad Cow disease in the U.S. Talks have failed to reopen the largest overseas market for American beef. But with meetings set for next week between President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi, hopes for that long-awaited breakthrough are on the rise.
Despite the denial, the Japanese press continues to report various aspects of the negotiations. These include:
- a rumor Washington is pushing for a mandatory testing threshold of 24 months instead of 20 months
-that even with the 20-month exemption, the Japanese want proof the animals are as old as claimed
-and, if the animals turn out to not be 20 months or younger, some compensation must be paid.
Even with this new development, the best guess still calls for the opening of the Japanese market sometime early next year.