WASHINGTON – Positive news returning to the states on U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s recent trade mission to Japan has pleased the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (N.C.B.A).

“We appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s efforts to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Japan when it comes to trade in agricultural products between our two countries,” said Steve Foglesong, N.C.B.A. president. “Japan is one of our top trading partners and it’s critical that the U.S. continues to engage with Japan and all of our international trading partners about the necessity of abiding by science-based international guidelines in beef trade.”

After detecting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (B.S.E.) in the U.S. in 2003, Japan closed its borders to U.S. beef. At present, Japan only allows beef products from cattle under 21 months of age, costing U.S. producers roughly $1 billion in lost export revenues each year, N.C.B.A. relays.

U.S.D.A.’s B.S.E. surveillance program has demonstrated since 1990 that B.S.E. in the U.S. cattle herd is virtually non-existent. Internationally, it is likely B.S.E. will be fully eradicated from Earth within the next 10 to 15 years, N.C.B.A. points out. The World Organization for Animal Health (O.I.E.), has classified the U.S. as a controlled-risk country for B.S.E. — the same designation as Japan. This classification means all beef products, regardless of age, can be safely traded as long as specified risk materials are removed.

“We are encouraged to see that the Obama Administration has announced that it intends to engage Japan in discussions about science-based import standards,” Mr. Foglesong said. “Japan’s failure to apply the O.I.E. guidelines continues to result in significant losses for the U.S. beef industry—limiting us to about 25% of our potential market there.”