DENVER — Kicking off on July 15, the 2009 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver has attracted cattle producers throughout the U.S. Cattlemen are interested in many global market access issues, said U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng, who will address conference attendees. But of particular interest is whether the U.S. beef industry will be receiving relief anytime soon from Japan’s 20-month cattle age limit on imports of U.S beef.

"The thing on everybody’s mind is when will we see movement into the Japanese market?" Mr. Seng said. "It’s a very complicated scenario because Japan has local elections for their parliament, for their lower house, and that will be set for the next four years. If the opposition gets in, their platform is not to have imports at all—especially U.S. beef imports."

Mr. Seng added most Asian trading partners prefer a phased approach to reopening their market to U.S. beef – a concept for which the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association expressed support at its annual meeting earlier this year. However, the U.S. government has been more focused on agreements to fully reopen markets to beef from cattle of all ages.

"What our government seems to be doing is they’re still going for all cattle, all ages," Mr. Seng said. "In other words, they’re going full stop. I think there is some skepticism in these markets where this is being done. I also think there is some skepticism in the U.S. These governments have clearly stated they want to have a step-by-step approach. That’s something the N.C.B.A. passed at its conference last January. This is something we should retake a look at because for most of these governments, that’s the best way to proceed."