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Published reports say that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged the Japanese government to lift its ban on the import of US beef. Japan decided to prohibit the sale of US beef after a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease, was identified in Washington State more than a year ago.

A Japanese government-appointed panel recently recommended that the ban on US beef be at least partially lifted, but no final decision has yet been reached. Before the ban was imposed, Japan was a $1.7 billion market for US beef.

Hatushisa Takashima, a spokesman for the Japanese foreign ministry, said that the Japanese government would make an effort to meet U.S. requests.

At the same time as the US has been trying to get Japan to rescind its ban on American beef, it also has been working to lower its own ban on Canadian beef.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has said that the United States will lift the ban on imports of cows younger than 30 months of age on March 7. Cows of this age are considered to be low risk for contracting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease.

However, Johanns also has said that the US is delaying shipments of older animals, saying that “ongoing investigations into the recent finds of [mad cow disease] in Canada in animals over 30 months are not complete.” Completing these investigations, he said, are a priority for the US government.
KC's View:
We know we get criticized for this opinion, but this all still feels like politics to us. Despite the fact that there are some very smart people who believe that the single case of mad cow disease detected in the US is proof positive that our system of detection is working, we can’t bring ourselves to accept that. Too many years, we suppose, of finding out that indeed the emperor has no clothes.

Someone once said that “a coincidence is when God performs a miracle and decides to remain anonymous." It would take nothing short of a miracle for there to be one cow in the US with mad cow disease, and the government found it.

Nine time out of ten, the government can’t find its own keister without a road map.