WASHINGTON – Thirty-three senators representing livestock states wrote a letter to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk urging him to take immediate action against Russia's import ban of US beef, pork and turkey over ractopamine residues.

In the letter, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Ranking Member of the Committee called Russia's standards for ractopamine "an egregious trade barrier with no scientific merit".

"The United States must do everything it can to defend its rights in both the WTO and CODEX and prevent non-science-based trading practices from other trading partners, including Russia," the senators wrote. "Further, we must demonstrate to Russia that its newfound commitment to WTO membership includes adherence to science-based standards, such as the CODEX MRL for ractopamine."

A ban on chilled meat began Feb. 4, followed by a ban on US frozen meat, turkey meat and value-added products that became effective Feb. 11. Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief health inspector, said he expects the ban will be lengthy. The senators wrote that Russia's decision contradicts generally accepted scientific conclusions. The ban, the senators wrote, also conflicts with the World Trade Organization’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement.

"With your swift action and use of all enforcement tools available, it is our sincere hope that the issues surrounding Russia’s import ban can begin to be resolved, thereby ensuring a stable and predictable trading environment for US livestock producers and exporters," the letter stated. "We look forward to working with you to resolve this critical issue in a timely manner."

In an earlier statement, Kirk and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called on Russia to end the ban.
"Russia’s failure to adopt the Codex standard raises questions about its commitment to the global trading system. Despite repeated US requests to discuss the safety of ractopamine, Russia has refused to engage in any constructive dialogue and instead has simply suspended US meat imports. The United States calls on Russia to restore market access for US meat and meat products immediately and to abide by its obligations as a Member of the World Trade Organization.”