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Washington, D.C. – Today Japan agreed to resume importing U.S. beef. U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is pleased with the announcement and encouraged Japan to "come the rest of the way."

"This decision is good not only for Wyoming cattlemen and those across the nation, but it's good for the people of Japan. American beef is safe. It's a quality product they've had to make do without," Enzi said. "The Japanese government announced a change in policy today. I hope it follows through by lifting the remaining restrictions and keeping the trading lane open rather than opening it only to shut it down again soon thereafter. Thanks to U.S. and Japanese negotiators I am hopeful we are on firmer ground this time."

Japan has agreed only to import beef from cows 20 months old or younger and it will not accept imports containing spinal material. Japan lifted its ban of U.S. beef late last year, but reinstated it in January.

"This has been a long process as we've confirmed that our system is in full compliance with Japan's import requirements and provided Japan with clear, scientific data confirming that American beef is extremely safe. It is gratifying to know that these efforts paid-off, as did the patience demonstrated by Congress," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a statement today.

In May, Enzi, Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., and 29 other senators sent a letter to the prime minister of Japan alerting him that "beef producers and processors have requested Congress to consider trade-retaliation efforts against Japan" and urging the prime minister to "...resolve this matter and to reestablish beef trade...".

Enzi and Thomas cosponsored legislation in 2005 that would impose tariffs on Japan for refusing to import American beef.

Japan used to be the number one export market for U.S. beef. Japan imported about $1.4 billion worth of U.S. beef in 2003 before it stopped, citing concerns over mad cow disease.