Iowa could lose millions on Russian ban of U.S. beef, pork imports

Proposed ban on additive could take effect Feb. 11

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A proposed Russian ban on beef and pork imported from the United States would cost Iowa producers millions of dollars annually.

Exports of beef and pork to Russia will be stopped on Feb. 11 with that country requiring that imported meat be free of residues from the feed additive ractopamine. Russia initially announced in December that it would require testing of U.S. meat exports to ensure all beef and pork was free of the additive.

Ractopamine improves the feed efficiency, growth rate and lean carcass percentage of live hogs and cattle.

Russia's decision is a violation of that nation's obligation under its admission in 2012 to the World Trade Organization, according to Matt Herrick, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Russia's actions threaten to undermine our bilateral trade relationships and are not consistent with international standards," Herrick said from his office in Washington, D.C. "They appear to be inconsistent with Russia's WTO commitments.

"The U.S. is committed to ensuring that the meat and meat products consumed here or exported to consumers around the world are safe and wholesome. We therefore continue to call on Russia to suspend these unjustified measures and restore market access to U.S. beef and pork products."

Iowa beef producers exported a record $5.5 million of beef to Russia from January through November 2012, according to the USDA. The previous record was $4.6 million in 2008.

Pork producers in Iowa exported a record $108 million of pork to Russia in the first 11 months of 2012, up sharply from $69.9 million in 2011. The previous record was $95 million, also in 2008.

Russia accounts for 7 percent of U.S. beef and beef product exports by volume, with 69,000 tons, or $275 million, of trade from January through October 2012.  That represented a 15 percent increase by volume from the same period in 2011 when exports were nearly 68,000 tons,  or $249 million, according to the USDA.

Russia is the recipient of 4 percent of U.S. pork and pork product exports by volume, with more than 81,000 tons,  or $231 million, of trade from January through October 2012.

That represents a 32 percent increase by volume than the same period in 2011 when pork and pork product exports to Russia were nearly 69,000 ,or $209 million.

Russia’s WTO membership requires it to eliminate in-quota tariffs on pork and adopt sanitary measures consistent with WTO rules and enforceable through dispute settlement.

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, contended that Russia needs to abide by the science-based WTO standards for trade.

"It looks like Russia is ready to put up more unjustified, non-scientific barriers to pork and beef from the United States," Grassley said. "There have been concerns about Russia’s non-tariff trade barriers for a while and, unfortunately, the (Obama) Administration failed to press hard enough on these issues last year in negotiating Russia’s entry to the WTO.

"Russia is an important market for pork and beef producers in Iowa and other parts of the United States.  The U.S. Trade Representative needs to take every action possible in response to Russia’s ban."

Dermot Hayes, economics professor at Iowa State University, projected that U.S. meat exports to Russia will fall by at least 50 percent because U.S. beef and pork packers will find it unprofitable to establish ractopamine-free production lines at processing plants.

Earlier this year, the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, which sets international standards for food safety, approved a maximum residue limit for ractopamine, which U.S. pork meets.

"The Codex Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have established that ractopamine is safe within the limits established by the international community," Herrick said. "To date, the U.S. has not seen any scientific evidence that would justify Russia's measures on ractopamine residues.

"We have asked Russia to adopt the Codex standards and have on several occasions offered to host discussions or tactical consultations to discuss the safety of ractopamine. We have had no constructive response from the Russians."

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