DENVER — Untapped opportunities in China, South Korea and Japan represent a "shovel-ready stimulus" for the U.S. beef industry, if trade issues can be resolved, according to U.S. Meat Export Federation Chairman-elect Jim Peterson, who recently returned from Asia.

Mr. Peterson, a rancher from Buffalo, Mont., noted the industry especially needs modification of the 20-month cattle-age limit Japan imposes on U.S. beef, and that the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement could provide relief from high tariffs in that market.

"If we could develop these international markets and get our access back to anything close to what it was in 2003, the economic stimulus would be huge for U.S. livestock producers," he said. "This market is, as they say, ‘shovel ready’ — so if you want a shovel-ready economic stimulus for the livestock industry in the U.S., international markets is the place to do it."

The next step is to get the governments talking to one another and gain U.S. beef access, he added. "In Japan, we have to raise the age limit to 30 months," he continued. "They have a new government in the U.S. and more recently now a new government in Japan. The two of them need to begin talks immediately. We need to get the Korean market moving. That trade agreement needs to be ratified by Congress. There are tremendous opportunities over here. If we can continue moving and get this thing opened up, the economic stimulus to U.S. livestock producers would be very significant. But the issue is getting our government moving in the U.S. and talking to these other governments in Japan, Korea and China."

Mr. Peterson also discussed his visit with executives from Daiei, Japan’s third-largest supermarket chain.

"Their demand for U.S. beef is extremely good," he said. "They say that really the only limiting factor is they can’t get enough of it certain times of the year because of the 20-month limitation. The point-of-purchase displays that are being put on by the U.S Meat Export Federation are very impressive. The product is beautiful, consumers are buying it and the opportunity is for us to get back to our own governments and get these government-to-government talks going and get these markets open so we can stimulate our livestock industry during these depressed times. The opportunity is there. We just have to do it."