One problem area in farm trade that all parties would like to see resolved is the Japanese ban on imports of U.S. beef. That ban went into effect, of course, when the U.S. suffered its first case of Mad Cow disease last December. Since then, a working group has been formed to work out differences between the two countries. But any near-term breakthrough seems unlikely, as the Japanese continue to insist on blanket testing for the disease at both home and abroad.
The U.S. government, meanwhile, is working to safeguard that meat supply. On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration and the USDA announced long-delayed proposals to further protect consumers against the agent that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.
The interim final FDA rule would prohibit the use of brains and other cattle parts that could carry BSE's infectious agent, from use in dietary supplements and cosmetics.
The ban affects products made from animals 30 months of age and older, the age at which the government says the brain-wasting disease can be found.
Before going into effect, there will be a public comment period.
The new restrictions are in addition to ones the FDA announced in January, which included a ban on the use of cattle blood as a feed ingredient. And on Friday, the agency said it also would further study adding more restrictions on livestock feed.
The government knows what it wants cows to eat ... and where they can and cannot go. According to the DTN AgDaily News, the USDA is not close to making a decision on when to reopen the border to Canadian live cattle. Several entities are studying the situation -- including the USDA, the Harvard Risk Assessment Team and the Office of Management and Budget. The word on the street is this issue won't be settled until after the November 2 elections.
BSE is still a concern in Japan, not only for imported beef but for the country's domestic supply, as well. The government there has decided to change its system of checking all domestically raised cows for BSE. The Kyodo news agency says the Japanese government now will exclude cows 20 months or younger from BSE testing.