On one front, working groups from Japan and the U.S. this week finished up the second of three meetings aimed at lifting the Japanese ban on American beef. But at the same time, the Food and Drug Administration missed another self-imposed deadline for issuing new regulations to safeguard livestock feed.
For more background on this week's Mad Cow developments, be sure to visit the Market To Market Web site ... and click on "Stay Tuned."
Overseas, meanwhile, new rules to protect shipping from terrorist attack took effect this week at the world's busiest ports. The U.S. has pledged to be aggressive in applying the precautions, which include requirements for an on-board security officer, alarm systems, and automatic identification systems.
Even so, a larger problem at U.S. ports this week was simply getting the cargoes delivered.
Hundreds of independent truckers went on strike earlier this week at several U.S. ports, slowing the movement of cargo containers including everything from furniture to electronics to frozen food.
Truckers nationwide are upset over wages, fuel costs and anti-union laws. According to the Associated Press, those striking want to be able to form unions and collectively bargain for better contracts from shipping and trucking companies that hire them out. Owner-operators of trucks are considered independent business people and are forbidden by federal price-fixing laws from negotiating or talking with employers in groups.
Truckers also are worried about rising fuel costs. The average price for a gallon of diesel fuel was $1.70 last week and has been as high as $1.76 this year. Indeed, many of the independent drivers claim shipping lines have not increased hauling rates to keep pace with rising fuel, as well as, higher insurance and truck maintenance costs.
These truckers, who get paid for each container they haul, say they will strike through Sunday.