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From: TSS ()
Date: March 28, 2006 at 2:09 pm PST

Johanns: Beef Trade Must Resume Before Reduction in BSE Tests
USAgNet - 03/28/2006

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Monday he wants to persuade Japan to resume U.S. beef shipments before deciding whether to scale back tests for mad cow disease.

Johanns and his staff have indicated they want to reduce the level of testing, which was ramped up after the first case of mad cow disease appeared in the United States. A decision will not come soon, Johanns told reporters.

"We just haven't been in a hurry," he said during a news conference. "We would like to see if we can get things straightened out with Japan and some of our other trading partners."

Talks were set to begin Tuesday in Tokyo between department and Japanese officials. The Japanese market is worth millions to U.S. beef producers.

Japan blocked American beef shipments in January after inspectors found veal cuts containing backbone, which Japan has banned from its food supply. The cuts are considered safe to eat in the U.S.

Japan had just ended a ban on American beef imposed after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease in 2003.

"It is a very important market on both sides of the ocean, so my hope is that we can resolve whatever questions are left and work toward reopening the border," Johanns said.

Before deciding on a reduction, the U.S. will talk about testing with Japan and other trading partners and will consult experts on the disease, Johanns said.

About 1,000 tests are run daily, compared with about 55 in 2003. Under the department's budget proposal, about 110 tests would be run daily, or 40,000 tests annually. Officials say the number is merely a placeholder for budgeting purposes.


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