BEEF bits

Jun 11, 2010
by WLJ

Japan maintains beef stance

Japan will keep its traditional cautious stance on talks over deregulation of beef imports with the U.S., new Farm Minister Masahiko Yamada said last week. Yamada was not willing to relax existing curbs on U.S. beef imports, news agency Kyodo quoted the minister as telling a news conference. Japan and the U.S. in April agreed to resume talks on lowering the hurdles Japan has imposed on U.S. beef imports since 2006 by limiting them to meat from cattle aged 20 months or less. Washington has pushed Japan to scrap all age restrictions, and negotiations have been deadlocked since mid-2007 when the last face-to-face talks were held. Last Tuesday, new Prime Minister Naoto Kan appointed Yamada as farm minister. Yamada was previously senior vice minister and in charge of controlling an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Miyazaki prefecture in southern Japan.

Mexico set to end beef tariffs

According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), Mexico may be preparing to end the antidumping tariffs placed on U.S. beef imports since 2000. Those tariffs were put in place over concerns that U.S. packers were shipping beef to Mexico for less than the cost of production in an effort to limit competition. According to USMEF, the anti-dumping duties were set to expire after five years but were extended upon the request of the Mexican government in 2005. The extended tariffs were set to expire this year and the party that filed the original request for the tariff, an association of Mexican cattle producers named the Confederacion Nacional de Ganaderos, recently withdrew its request for further extension. Thad Lively, USMEF’s senior vice president for trade access, emphasized in the note that Mexico’s ministry of the economy has yet to act on the request, but he said it is a positive development as approximately half of the beef shipped to Mexico from the U.S. is subject to the tariff.

Taiwan set to inspect U.S. plants

Taiwan, for the first time, will send officials to conduct on-site inspections of U.S. meat packers that export beef to Taiwan, Focus Taiwan News quoted Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang as saying last week at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation trade ministers meeting in Japan. Yaung said the officials will inspect five to 10 slaughterhouses or packing facilities in August or September to ensure that U.S. beef exports are adequately labeled in compliance with Taiwanese regulations. “The examination procedures and customs clearance will be able to become faster after the labeling problems are addressed,” Yang was quoted as saying. The move could be the next step in expanding exports to Taiwan.

FDA needs to be reorganized

A new report says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is stretched thin and needs to reorganize to better keep the nation’s food safe. The report released by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council last week says the agency needs to become more efficient and better target its limited dollars to prevent food borne illness outbreaks. The 500-page report says FDA lacks the vision necessary to protect consumers. Robert Wallace, chairman of the committee that authored the report, said FDA is too often reactive and not focused enough on prevention. The report recommends the agency focus on preventing outbreaks in the riskiest foods rather than tackling problems on a case-by-case basis.

New BSE test could speed processing

Research on sheep suggests that testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) could someday be as simple as shining a special light in the eyes of cattle. Eye issue from scrapie-infected sheep, a disease similar to BSE, has a glow, which is readily visible under certain lighting, according to Iowa State University researchers. University researchers and staff from the National Animal Disease Center believe that the abnormal prions created in infected animals may change the eye chemistry, leading to the glow. Researchers hope these findings could lead to a fast, inexpensive method for diagnosing some neurological diseases in animals.

EPA adds CAFO operators to board

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new members of its Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee for the 2010-2012 term, including representatives from Smithfield Foods and JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding. Board members advise the agency on such topics as non-point source water pollution, agricultural air issues, and environmental markets. Among 29 members’ names were Tom McDonald, vice president, environmental affairs for JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, and Dennis Treacy, senior vice president, corporate affairs, and chief sustainability officer for Smithfield Foods.