Russia bans meat from ractopamine-treated animals

In a move largely seen as political retaliation, Russia has announced it will turn away U.S. beef and pork imports unless the U.S. can certify them as containing no residue of ractopamine, a feed additive used to promote lean-meat production. The ban will take effect this Friday, according to a report from Nasdaq.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to establish permanent normal trade relations with Russia by a vote of 92 to 4. The bill, however, contains provisions for sanctions against Russian officials accused of human rights violations. According to news reports, some U.S. exporters and analysts believe Russia's action on ractopamine is in retaliation over the human-rights provisions in the bill.

Earlier this year, U.S. trade officials negotiated a dispute with Taiwan over its ban on beef from cattle fed ractopamine. In September, Taiwan agreed to internationally accepted and scientifically established residue levels and dropped the ban.

The Russian ban, which would require certification that imported beef and pork is ractopamine-free, would essentially ban all imports from the United States since there currently is no testing program in place for exported meats.

According to the Nasdaq report, U.S. beef sales to Russia through the end of September, amounted to approximately $242 million, up 25 percent from the same time in 2011. Pork sales are up 14 percent from September 2011, at $208 million. Russia is one of the 10 largest importers of both U.S. pork and beef.

The U.S. has officially asked Russia to drop the testing requirements, saying they violate Russia's agreements through the World Trade Organization, which the country joined in August of this year, and U.S. trade officials are travelling to Russia to discuss the issue.

On Monday, the U.S. Meat Export Federation issued the following statement:

"While USMEF does not comment on ongoing government-to-government discussions, we support calls by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack for Russia to suspend these new measures and restore market access for U.S. beef and pork products.

Later this week, further meetings will take place between representatives of the U.S. and Russian governments and USMEF looks forward to the outcome of these discussions. U.S. beef and pork customers throughout the world can be confident that the U.S. industry is committed to supplying healthy, nutritious beef and pork. This commitment is based on the best available science and has the backing of the United States government. We are confident that a science-based solution to the disagreement over testing and certification can be found quickly so that exports of U.S. beef and pork to Russia can resume in the near future."

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