Producers, exports hurt by stalled BSE rule

WASHINGTON -- International trade bolsters job creation here at home and helps foster economic activity in communities across the country. The beef industry plays a big role in the United States' trade portfolio.

WASHINGTON -- International trade bolsters job creation here at home and helps foster economic activity in communities across the country. The beef industry plays a big role in the United States' trade portfolio.

Last year alone, U.S. beef producers exported to countries around the world nearly $5.5 billion worth of product. And, it's generally agreed upon that increasing exports are the key to increasing demand for U.S. beef products.

Unfortunately, our own government is hindering progress in opening new markets for these products.

The problem lies in a comprehensive bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) rule for beef imports that would make the United States compliant with international trade standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health. The rule has been caught in the federal bureaucracy for several years, starting in 2004 shortly after BSE was discovered in a Canadian cow brought into the United States. Earlier this year the rule finally cleared the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS as most cattle producers call it, but is now sitting at the Office of Management and Budget waiting for approval.

This continued inaction is hurting our producers. So I led, along with Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a bipartisan group of senators in pressing the OMB to release a final comprehensive rule as soon as possible and help give U.S. trade negotiators a stronger bargaining position.


As it stands, the lack of a comprehensive BSE rule for beef imports puts our trade negotiators at a disadvantage when negotiating with other countries. At this time, a number of countries have placed nonscience-based restrictions on U.S. beef imports. For example, some countries don't allow U.S. beef older than 30 months old into their country. Some of these nations use the fact that the United States has not formally adopted a comprehensive BSE rule to justify its own unfair trade barriers.

One example is Mexico, which has traditionally been one of the top export markets for U.S. beef. Since 2004, Mexico has not allowed the importation of U.S. cattle that are older than 30 months of age. Estimates show that beef producers in the United States are losing $100 million every year because of this restriction.

By not having our own comprehensive BSE rule in place that would abide by the science-based criteria set forth by the World Organization for Animal Health, our trade negotiators are in a difficult negotiating position to press Mexico to eliminate its trade barrier.

By placing our own trade barriers on other products, it only serves to hurt the hard-working producers raising a quality product. It doesn't meet the common-sense test to create additional hurdles for our own producers.

By having a comprehensive BSE rule in place, the United States will show leadership on a global scale and give the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Agriculture a stronger position to press other nations to follow the World Organization for Animal Health's guidelines and adopt science-based BSE policies.

As a result, when nations base their decisions on sound science, we are confident more markets will be expanded or opened to U.S. beef. U.S. producers can compete in every market for every sale.

It's time the United States shows leadership and gives our international trade negotiators a stronger footing for dealing with beef issues.

Editor's Note: Grassley is a U.S. senator

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