December 23, 2011
Amendments to BSE rules in the US are being seen as the initial step in reopening the market to European beef exports.
The European Parliament's agriculture committee was told about the reforms by MEP George Lyon who had talks with US authorities, including its agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, in Washington earlier in the year.
The rules banned British beef exports to the US in the 1980s. This was followed by an embargo on all European beef to the US in the 1990s.
Lyon said the reforms had in recent days been sent to the US Office of Budget Responsibility for approval and would go out for public consultation in the New Year. He added: "I am confident that following the public consultation on the new BSE rules the US government will move quickly to implement them in the first half of next year.
"That would open up significant opportunities in the US market to exports of high quality beef from the UK and Ireland and exports of veal from the Netherlands."
The Scottish Government last month submitted a request to American authorities to lift its ban on beef so Scotland's meat industry can access the market. The BSE rules also prevent lamb and venison exports to the US.
News of the development emerged as MEPs expressed concerns at being asked to approve moves to increase the amount of hormone-free beef the US can export to Europe by 25,000 tonnes to 45,000 tonnes without any apparent move by the States on lifting its embargo.
A deal reached between the US and EU in 2009 ended a two-decade trade dispute surrounding hormone-treated beef which Europe bans on health concerns.
Various World Trade Organisation rulings declared Europe's ban of hormone-treated beef illegal, despite the health issues.
MEPs agreed to the increase in beef imports from America.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said last night: "We have been expecting such an announcement by Vilsack and this is a very welcome development. I personally discussed this issue with the USDA when I was in Washington last December and it is gratifying that our efforts on behalf of the Scottish meat sector are now bearing fruit."