CQ Roll Call
January 28, 2013

Baucus Touts Victory as Japan Eases Beef Import Restrictions

Sen. Max Baucus claimed victory Monday after the Obama administration sealed an agreement that will expand U.S. beef exports to Japan nearly a decade after restrictions were first imposed because of the specter of mad cow disease.

Under new trade terms announced by the administration, Japan now will permit the import of U.S. beef from cattle younger than 30 months. Since 2006, beef from cows at a maximum of 20 months of age could be imported. Japan banned U.S. beef altogether in 2003 after bovine spongiform encephalopathy was found in a cow in the United States.

“This is a win for ranchers in Montana and across the country and will mean more exports and more jobs here in the U.S.,” the Montana Democrat said. “Japan is a huge market for our beef exports, and I’m thrilled it’s finally taken a big step toward accepting sound science and welcoming more of our exports.”

Baucus has long sought to open markets to Montana beef, and as Senate Finance Committee chairman he has used his position to push Japan to re-evaluate its limits. Baucus visited Japan in August and encouraged Japan’s prime minister to relax the country’s beef restrictions.

Baucus is up for re-election in 2014, and though he’s won convincingly in recent elections, he also represents a state that President Barack Obama lost by 13 points in 2012 and the trade opening gives him an accomplishment to trumpet to the state. A statement from his office was headlined, “Baucus Secures Victory for America’s Ranchers as Japan Accepts More U.S. Beef Exports.”

Obama officials also praised Japan’s decision, which they say will result in a hundreds of millions of dollars in new beef exports in the coming years.

“This represents a significant and historic step in expanding U.S. beef trade with Japan and growing American exports and jobs here at home,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

“Today’s announcement reflects another successful effort by the Obama administration that boosts the bottom line for America’s agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

View article here.