The government of Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, which took office in September, may be ready to provide an opportunity to resolve the dispute between Japan and the United States over the age limit imposed on U.S. beef imports.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said that he will push Japan to ease those restrictions next week when he visits Tokyo as part of a trade mission, reports Business Week.

The U.S. beef industry is losing about $1 billion a year in sales because of Japan’s refusal to allow imports of beef from older animals, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“We want to reaffirm our relationship with the Japanese and the new government and help them understand that there is benefit for them and benefit for us if this trade is reopened,” he said. There have been no advance discussions of specific changes to the beef restrictions, Vilsack said. He added that he has no illusions about how difficult it will be to get Japan to lift the ban on cattle 20 months of age or older.

The secretary said he hoped Japan and the U.S. could "create a framework in which we can get to the point where there is a reopening of this market."

Source: Business Week, AFP

Explosive found in Hormel plant

A bomb scare led at least three law enforcement agencies to a Hormel Foods plant in Fremont at the start of working hours Monday.

At about 9:30 a.m., a caller told authorities an employee there had what was possibly a homemade bomb in a locker at the plant, according to a news release from the Nebraska State Patrol.

Dodge County sheriff's deputies removed the suspicious item from the employee's locker and took it outside to a parking lot across the street from the plant. Members of the Nebraska State Patrol and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also were at the scene, and the bomb was made safe with the help of a bomb robot.

There were no arrests made, and the plant was not evacuated. Police did have the name of a suspect, reports the Lincoln Journal Star, but that suspect was not named by police.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star

Missouri horse meat bill advances

The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill earlier this week that would pay for federal inspections of horse meat processing for human consumption. The bill needs to be passed by the state senate, and KOMU (NBC) is reporting that the bill is expected to be passed quickly.

"This is a huge economic driver for our state, our economic development tool. We are going to put people back to work and to work in these plants and there will be owners in these plants," said Representative Jim Viebrock.

Animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, are in strong opposition to the bill. Jim Dudley, a member of the American Quarter Horse Association, was quoted as supporting the bill.

"My passion are the horses but my knowledge is telling me that we need a place to take these horses," he said.

Source: KOMU