On Monday, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the United States and Japan had agreed to terms that will allow expanded access for U.S. beef. The major change is that effective Feb. 1, Japan will allow imports of beef from U.S. cattle less than 30 months of age, compared to the previous age limit of 20 months.

In the attached audio report, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Economist Erin Borror discusses the impact of this policy change and the positive momentum it will provide for U.S. beef exports in 2013.

Through November of last year, Japan was the No. 2 market for U.S. beef exports in terms of value ($970 million) and No. 3 in volume (143,900 metric tons). When official December results are available, exports to Japan will top $1 billion in value for the first time since 2003. Borror projects that with expanded access to this market, exports will increase roughly 45 percent in the coming year - reaching 225,000 metric tons valued at about $1.5 billion. She estimates that improved access to Japan will boost U.S. beef export value by about $20 per head of fed slaughter.