The U.S. and Russia's official signing of a bilateral trade agreement yesterday effectively ends a Russian ban on U.S. beef.
After U.S. officials discovered bovine spongiform encephalopathy, often called 'mad cow disease,' in December 2003, Russia banned the import of U.S. beef.
"Before December 2003, Russia was a huge export market for U.S. cattle producers," says South Dakota cattleman Ed Blair, chair of the beef industry's Joint International Markets Committee. "Cattle producers are relieved Russia has finally acknowledged established international trade standards regarding BSE."
After a Russian audit team visits plants in the U.S., the Russian market will open for U.S. boneless beef, bone-in beef and beef variety meats from cattle under 30 months with an export certificate.
U.S. cattle producers hope to see the market expand beyond the currently approved products.
"Previously, Russia was the largest export market for U.S. beef livers, and we look forward to rebuilding this market once again," says Blair. "In 2003, Russia was the fifth largest export market for U.S. beef in terms of quantity, importing over 140 million pounds of U.S. beef and beef variety meats valued at over $53 million."