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January 26, 2006
Missouri boasts of its beef in Asia
 

Talk about bad timing. Less than a week after Japan banned all U.S. beef imports, a delegation headed by Missouri’s top agricultural official arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday night on a previously arranged mission to promote the state’s beef.

It remains to be seen how the Japanese ban, implemented Friday after prohibited cattle parts were discovered in a U.S. shipment, will affect farmers in Missouri.

“It’s not having any short-term effect on the market,” said Brent Bryant, executive vice president of the Columbia-based Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. “But long-term, it’s very important for us to get that market reopened. Japan’s going to be an important customer for us.”

Fred Ferrell, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, left Sunday on the 12-day trip, which began in Taiwan. The visit was intended to highlight the safety and quality of beef from Missouri, the nation’s No. 2 producer of beef calves.

Misti Preston, a spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture, said Missouri ranchers raised about 4.2 million head of cattle valued at $3.8 million in 2005.

In Boone County, approximately 360 producers raise about 25,000 head of cattle annually, Bryant said.

Japan instituted the ban Friday after bone material prohibited under a U.S.-Japanese agreement was discovered in a shipment from New York. Japan’s borders had been open to American beef only since late December, when the country lifted a two-year ban imposed amid concerns over mad cow disease.

On Wednesday, as the Missouri delegation was wrapping up its talks with Taiwanese beef buyers, Taiwan lifted its boycott on U.S. beef imports. That ban, the second in less than two years, had been in place since June 2005.

The Japanese and Taiwanese markets are potentially quite lucrative for U.S. beef producers. Prior to its earlier ban, Japan had been the world’s biggest importer of U.S. beef, spending $1.4 billion a year in 2003, said Vern Pierce, a beef economist in the commercial agricultural program at MU Extension.

Pierce said a lack of trade with Japan could lower the prices Missouri producers can fetch for their cattle.

“If we don’t recapture that, it’ll start to hit Missouri in the pocketbook,” Pierce said. “Missouri will be one of the first hit.”

Source : Columbia Missouri