Beef Will Take Centerstage During Japanese Trip

Beef Will Take Centerstage During Japanese Trip

Vilsack wants to develop a relationship with Japan that can lead to common ground and an open market for U.S. beef.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says his upcoming trip to Japan is an opportunity to develop a relationship, but will focus on the benefits of allowing that relationship to involve robust beef trade once again. He admits that's not an easy task, but believes that the two sides can find a way forward that satisfies the needs of the Japanese and the United States.

"A relationship in which Japanese consumers are given a choice and the assurance of a safe product and we in the
United States are given the opportunity to successfully compete for that market," Vilsack said. "My hope is that by listening intently we can find that place that has eluded us in the past of common ground. We've done this in other countries and there is no reason to think we can't do it in Japan."

Members of Congress have recently introduced resolutions that call on
Japan to expand market access for U.S. beef products. Representatives Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., are leading the charge in the House. The effort on the Senate side involves several Senators including Ag Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Mike Johanns, R-Neb.

As long as the message is consistent Vilsack says Congressional efforts like this are helpful and welcomed.

"Obviously Senator Johanns has an appreciation from a number of perspectives, both in terms of his previous service as Secretary of Agriculture and also coming from a beef producing state like Nebraska it makes sense for him to want to promote beef trade," Vilsack said. "I think there is some consistency here, which is that we want this market open, we want that dialogue that has been ongoing to continue and perhaps be accelerated and we want to reaffirm our relationship with the Japanese and understand that there is benefit for them and benefit for us if this trade is reopened."

When that does happen, Vilsack says he's confident
U.S. beef can be competitive and get that market back.

"There may already be established markets and relationships; I think it has in the past had a very high level of acceptance and appreciation for high quality," Vilsack said. "I think we just simply have to have that opportunity to reacquaint Japanese consumers with that high quality and I think if we do we will get our share of the market."

Ultimately Vilsack says the Administration wants to see an open market where Japanese consumers have the choices they want. He says how to get there, in what timeframe and with what steps will be the subject of discussion during his trip next week.

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