Export picture brightens for cattle industry

The potential for exports continues to brighten for Montana cattle producers.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Thursday that the first shipment of U.S. beef in 13 years had arrived in Brazil, marking the official reopening of a market of about 190 million people to American producers. And U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) and colleagues are continuing their effort to quickly land a much bigger prize — China, and its growing population of 1.4 billion consumers.

Daines and five other lawmakers are following up on their recent trip to China, during which Daines hand-delivered a cooler filled with Montana beef to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The beef was produced by Miles City cattleman Fred Wacker on the family’s Cross-Four Cattle Ranch in Custer and Rosebud counties. The lawmakers urged him to ease the way

According to a news release from Daines, the lawmakers have penned a letter to Premier Li, thanking him for his hospitality, and inquiring about the steaks. 

“We hope you were able to enjoy the steaks delivered from a Montana ranch and were able to experience first-hand the high-quality beef that U.S. ranchers can provide to Chinese consumers,” the letter stated.

Wacker’s ranch produces All Natural Beef — no antibiotics, no added hormones, no steroid implants, and no animal byproducts in the cattle feed. It’s exactly what the Chinese are seeking, after China’s Ministry of Agriculture announced last September that it would lift its ban on U.S. beef.

But “technical issues remain” that are delaying the resumption of trade, the letter noted, adding that Li had indicated during the trip that the lack of a U.S. Secretary of Agriculture was an obstacle.

The letter reminds Li that Perdue has now been cofirmed, and asks him to “prioritize reaching an agreement that allows Chinese consumers to have the opportunity to enjoy high-quality U.S. beef and direct all relevant agencies within your government to do the same.”

“We look forward to continuing to work with you to address these issues and reach a resolution that is mutually beneficial to our countries,” the letter concluded.

Both China and Brazil closed their markets to U.S. beef when the USDA confirmed the first case of domestic mad cow disease in a cow in Texas in 2003.

According to a USDA news release, the agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service provided documentation and information on the U.S. food safety requirements and standards for beef to Brazil. Following numerous technical discussions and meetings, Brazil officially reopened the market on Aug. 1, 2016 based on the United States’ classification by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as a negligible risk country for BSE.