Monday, January 28, 2013

Japan Releases New Protocols for US Beef

Starting next month, more American beef will be crossing the border into Japan.

The Japanese government announced today that it approved new protocols for US beef imports that will allow beef from cattle slaughtered under 30 months of age. Previously, Japan would only accept US beef exports from cattle slaughtered under 20 months of age, due to concerns about Bovine Spongiform Encephalopahy.

In addition, the US and Japanese governments agreed to regular and ad hoc consultations to review progress under the protocols and address any issues that may arise.

"This is an important step forward in our relationship with Japan and [a] welcomed opportunity to expand exports into a growing market with enormous potential," Kent Bacus, National Cattlemen's Beef Association associate director of legislative affairs, said in an email message this morning. "We have been working to expand access into Japan for almost 10 years."

In 2003, Japan banned US beef following detection of a BSE-positive animal in the country. The market was partially reopened in 2006 to allow for animals slaughtered at 20 months or younger, according to information from the US Trade Representative. Five years later, in December 2011, Japan's independent Food Safety Commission initiated a risk assessment to examine raising the maximum age of US and other foreign beef and beef products for export to Japan.

The results of the risk assessment were released in October 2012. Japan and the US then entered into consultations to revise the import requirements, including raising the age of cattle allowed to 30 months or younger. The definition of specified risk materials -- certain cattle tissues that can carry the BSE agent -- was redefined as well to align more closely with international standards of the World Organization for Animal Health.

It is estimated that this protocol change will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional US beef exports, according to a news release from NCBA.

Above: Kari Underly demonstrates beef cutting
at a GBB workshop
Summer 2012
Japan was the second-largest export market for US beef through November 2012, totaling $849 million and nearly 130,000 metric tons, according to data from NCBA. In addition, according to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the agreement "goes a long way toward normalizing trade with Japan" by addressing restrictions the country introduced in response to BSE.

"This is great news for cattlemen and women and is a significat milestone in our trading relationship with Japan," NCBA President J.D. Alexander said in the news release. "Japan is a great market for US beef and we look forward to continuing to meet Japanese consumer demands."

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called the move a continued step in this "most successful period in history for America's agriculture sector."

"We will continue to break down barriers and expand access for high-quality, save and wholesome US food and agricultural products to Japan and around the world," Vilsack said in a Trade Representative news release.

The new trade protocols take effect Feb. 1.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why the Legislature Matters to You

By Jordan Harrison, Georgia Junior Cattlemen's Association Convention & Summer Conference coordinator
I’m sure you're all too familiar with organizations such People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States. The goal of these organizations is to establish rights for all animals. The only thing that PETA and HSUS have is influence. They can’t legally stop you from raising cattle or caring for other livestock.
However, they do tend to influence those who can. These groups attempt to influence lawmakers and members of Congress through hired lobbyists. The overall goal of a lobbyist is to convince a person in a position of political importance to make a law or bill to adopt the viewpoints of the organization they are lobbying for. For example, a lobbyist for PETA may try to convince a congressman to introduce a bill limiting the amount of cattle per acre on commercial farms.
As a current and future stakeholder in the beef industry, Georgia Junior Cattlemen's Association members should keep an eye out for legislation such as this. These laws and bills being pushed on congressmen by animal rights activist groups will come to affect us individually in one way or another. More directly some groups have even tried to introduce legislation that would make it illegal for kids to work on their family farms. If laws such as these were to pass, how would we carry out the activities to support our cattle operations? These laws would also make many FFA and 4-H activities illegal to participate in. Luckily this bill was not passed, allowing us to carry on our traditions.
As teens and kids we can’t always rely on others to prevent things like this from happening. Even non-age specific laws that limit and hinder agriculture unnecessarily should be watched with close attention. Even if they don’t affect us now, they will in years to come. As junior members we have to take an interest in legislation to make sure that we have the chance to build our own cattle operations one day. We shouldn’t let Congress and lawmakers decide what should happen on our farms without our input.
It’s my future, it’s your future, it’s our future -- shouldn’t we have a say?
For more information about legislation affecting the beef cattle industry, visit the National Cattlemen's Beef Association site and look under the Issues and Political Action tabs.. To contact your state and national Congressmen and women, visit the GCA legislature contacts page.