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Published March 08, 2010, 07:42 AM

Russia to open markets to US pork again

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced here March 5 that Russia has agreed to reopen its markets to U.S. pork and pork products.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Special to Agweek

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced here March 5 that Russia has agreed to reopen its markets to U.S. pork and pork products.

Vilsack made the announcement in a speech to the Commodity Classic, a gathering of corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum producers, many of whom grow feed for the pork industry. In a news release, Vilsack noted that the United States has been in negotiations with Russia since December 2009 when Russia notified USDA of its intent to restrict pork shipments from 13 U.S. pork plants, which accounted for more than 90 percent of U.S. pork exports to Russia. The negotiations, which were completed this week by Agriculture Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services Jim Miller, led to the development of a new veterinary certificate to ensure that pork exports from the United States meet specific Russian microbiological and tetracycline-group antibiotic residue requirements, Vilsack said. U.S. plants that want to export to Russia to apply to the Agricultural Marketing Service for an export certificate that will verify the product meeets Russian product requirements.

Miller also negotiated with the Russians over U.S. poutry imports, adding that they were "constructive" but did not reach a conclusion. Vilsack told reporters that the U.S. and Russian governments are trying to reach agreement on a way of washing chickens for food safety reasons with a chemical other than chlorine, which the U.S. industry currently uses.

In his speech, Vilsack said that USDA will continue to encourage other countries to accept biotechnology. He said he understands that some Americans object to biotechnology, but that it is important to use science to increase food production.

Vilsack the Obama administration will make biotechnology part of a three-pronged approach to agricultural trade based on the development levels of countries rather than geography. Vilsack said, "The continuum goes from fragile markets/food security states, to potential growth markets, to restricted access markets, to rapid growth markets, to developed consumer markets. The new strategy will improve collaboration among USDA agencies and guide priorities for international staffing, foreign assistance, and agricultural research." In less developing countries with potential for growth in U.S. exports such as those in Africa, Vilsack said USDA will emphasize building the institutional and human capacity needed to support increased trade, while in markets that restrict access for U.S. products such as the European Union, USDA efforts will focus on removing trade barriers. In rapidly growing countries such as China an India, he said, USDA will use all its trade programs to increase sales as rapidly as possible. Vilsack noted that the annual value of U.S. agricultural exports has grown from less than $50 billion in 2000 to an estimated $100 billion in 2010. President Obama in his state of the union address pledged to double U.S. exports in the next 10 years, but Vilsack has said that does not necessarily mean doubling U.S. agricultural exports.