A break for embattled ranchers

Japan has finally listed a ban on U.S. beef imports that it put in place in 2003 in response to the “mad cow” scare. Japan was the largest importer of U.S. beef in 2003, so this is great news for American beef producers. However, as the article below points out, it is a silver lining in the midst of other hardships facing cattle ranchers. They must also contend with rising feed prices and a persistent drought that has diminished water supplies and harmed grazing lands.

However, America’s farmers and ranchers are resilient folks. We hope the lifting of this ban is the start of a string of good news for beef producers.

Photo credit: Kevin Kiley

A break for embattled ranchers

By Stephanie Strom and Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times

Reflecting diminishing fears over mad cow diseaseJapan eased its decade-old restriction on imports of American beef on Monday, but industry experts said beef producers faced many more challenges to reverse a prolonged slump that has pared the nation’s herd to its lowest level in 60 years and sent prices soaring.

A Japanese government council that oversees food and drug safety cleared a change in import regulations that would permit imports of meat from American cattle 30 months old or younger, rather than the current 20 months.

The change is set to take effect on Friday for American beef processed after that date, and shipments could start arriving in Japan in mid-February, according to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Japan, the world’s largest net importer of food, instituted the ban in 2003 after bovine spongiform encephalopathy, an illness more commonly known as mad cow disease, was found in a single cow in Washington State. Humans are thought to catch the disease’s fatal human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, by eating meat, including the brain and spinal cord, from contaminated carcasses.

Japan eased the ban in 2006 but only for meat from cattle 20 months or younger. Japanese officials argued that the incidence of the disease was higher in older animals.

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