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Russia Slowly Approving U.S. Poultry Imports

American poultry is inching closer to full Russian acceptance as a months long trade dispute drags on.

Russian officials declared in January they would no longer accept imported poultry processed with chlorine, a food safety intervention widely used in the U.S.  In June, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev announced they had resolved the dispute, with both sides signing a joint letter agreeing to resume exports of U.S. poultry not treated with chlorine, listing three acceptable, alternative pathogen reduction treatments: cetylpyridinium chloride, hydrogen peroxide, and peroxyacetic acid.

The poultry industry and lawmakers have grown frustrated with the slow implementation of the agreement.

In response to a Russian announcement that the country would require re-inspection of U.S. processing plants–not part of the June agreement–Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) sent a letter late last week calling the move “yet another obstacle to resumption of trade.”

“Russia’s refusal to resume poultry trade with the U.S. demonstrates an serious lack of commitment to the agreement reached by the two countries in June,” Lincoln said in a statement last week. “By creating an arbitrary trade barrier, Russia continues to hamper progress in U.S.-Russian relations.”

Russia’s veterinary service, Rosselhoznadzor, approved Sanderson’s Collins, Mississippi plant on Thursday, bringing the total accepted U.S. facilities to 11. The 10 plants that have been approved include three OK Foods facilities, two Tyson Foods plants, two Koch Foods facilities and one plant each for Mountaire Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Perdue Farms, according to Meatingplace.
 
It’s not quite the movement laid out by a Russian official who last week said the country would start accepting poultry from 68 U.S. facilities starting this week. Interfax, a Russian news agency, quoted Russian Agriculture Ministry spokesperson Oleg Aksyonov as saying Friday that imports could begin Aug. 16 from 68 out of a total of 87 facilities proposed by the U.S. officials (approximately half of the approved shipping facilities are cold storage plants, not slaughter facilities).

Over the last three years, U.S. poultry exports to Russia averaged more than $800 million in value, making Russia the single largest U.S. export market, according to the Senate Ag Committee, which notes the poultry industry represents over 500,000 jobs in the United States.

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