Monday, July 24, 2017

Katie Ryan (left) and Laramie Haug prep a steer for market beef conformation at Big Horn County’s 2016 Youth Fair.

U.S. beef one step closer to Chinese kitchens

China is a step closer to allowing imports of U.S. beef for the first time in almost 14 years.
 
The U.S. and China have agreed on final details of a deal to allow the imports, the Agriculture Department said recently. The agreement is one part of a bilateral agreement reached following President Donald Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in April.
 
Miles City rancher Fred Wacker said today that the results won’t be instantaneous but “this new market should increase prices but also even out prices,” preventing the wide swings that have affected the market. 
 
Wacker also said that the Chinese are asking for “the highest quality of U. S. beef,” which should mean the highest export prices.
 
China imposed a ban on American beef in 2003 after the U.S. experienced a case of mad-cow disease, a ban that remained in place despite extensive efforts by the Bush and Obama administrations to get it removed. Before the ban, the U.S. was China’s largest supplier of imported beef.
 
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) recently made a trade trip to China, hand-carrying Montana beef steaks produced on Wacker’s Cross Four Ranch and Feedlot to Xi Jinping.
 
Daines, in a statement released through his office, said “Montanans know U. S. beef is the highest quality in the world and now our producers can compete on a level playing field. On my next trip to Beijing, I look forward to seeing Montana beef on the menu.”
 
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) also praised the trade agreement in a press release.
 
“This new market will provide Montana cattle ranchers with the opportunity to grow their operations and create a good living off the land,” Tester said.
 
Errol Rice, president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, previously told the Miles City Star that prior to the 2003 ban, beef imports from the U. S. to China were “minimal.” However, in the past decade, China has developed a rising middle class that demands beef. China currently imports around 825,000 tons of beef, mostly from Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
 
Rice also said that current Asian markets for U. S. beef include Japan, which imports $1.5 billion of beef annually, followed by $1 billion each by South Korea and Hong Kong.
 
In order to be eligible for export to China, the cattle must be indentifiable to the farm or ranch that they were born on, according to Wacker, and “must be traceable through their port of entry,” meaning that “paperwork will follow every package of beef.”
 
Some details of the agreement are still being worked out concerning growth implants, which the Chinese forbid, and possible diet requirements for exported cattle, Wacker said.
 
He said the first cattle to meet those requirements will probably be eligible to be exported in the early fall of this year with the “big numbers” eligible for export next spring.
 
In exchange for China opening its borders to U.S. beef, the U.S. would allow the sale of cooked Chinese poultry.
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that China is requiring that any beef imported from the U.S. must have been born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S., or imported from Canada or Mexico and raised and slaughtered here. It could also be imported from Canada or Mexico and slaughtered in the U.S.
 
The beef also has to be derived from cattle less than 30 months old and traceable to the U.S. birth farm or first place of residence or port of entry. All of the precautions lessen the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
 
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer all praised the deal in a statement.
 
“I have no doubt that as soon as the Chinese people get a taste of American beef, they’ll want more of it,” Perdue said.
 
Contact Amorette Allison at mcreporter@midrivers.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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