Russia is making bogus food safety claims to curtail or eliminate American poultry, pork and beef imports, the two top agricultural leaders in the U.S. Senate charge in a letter to President Obama.
Democrat Blanche Lincoln and Republican Saxby Chambliss, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, urged the President to “fully engage all resources to address these agricultural trade issues, especially with respect to U.S. exports of pork, poultry, and beef.”
The letter was sent on the eve of talks between U.S. trade officials and the Russian Ministries of Health and Agriculture.
Lincoln, D-AR, said the food safety-related reasons the Russians are using to restrict U.S. imports of meat and poultry are “baseless.”
“While the actions against our exports have taken different forms, they all erect non-scientific barriers to trade,” write Lincoln and Chambliss, R-GA. “First, if left unchallenged they would have the effect of keeping U.S. products almost entirely out of Russian markets.”
“Second,” the Senators continued, “while the Russian government’s varied justifications centered on sanitary measures, analyses or guidelines of international agencies such as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) or the Codex Alimentarius do not support Russia’s conclusions. As such, attempts to manage the flow of imports raises questions regarding Russia’s willingness and readiness to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Senators then go on to address each product that is on the receiving end of a Russian “food safety” concern.
“With respect to pork, a variety of Russian ministries have raised a series of questionable or undocumented objections about processing or residue issues for products originating from specific U.S. plants, leading to those facilities being de-listed for eligibility to export to Russia. With the de-listing of nearly 30 pork processing plants, 98 percent of pork processed in the United States is ineligible for export.
“With respect to poultry, as of January 1, 2010, the government of Russia has determined that it will no longer accept for import poultry that was processed with the use of chlorine rinses, even though numerous studies and most recognized scientific bodies worldwide have found this practice to be entirely safe. It is also our understanding that a significant number of poultry processors in Russia use the same technique. Since almost all U.S. poultry plants use chlorine rinses, this action has essentially closed their market to our product.”
“Finally, we have been told that the U.S. beef industry has been informed that only U.S. product which has been inspected according to Russian standards will be allowed into the country as of February 1, 2010. If the information is correct it will also significantly impact U.S. beef exports.”
Beef, pork, and poultry exports to Russia in 2008, the latest year for which full data is available, totaled $1.3 billion. U.S. exports to Russia in 2008 totaled $9.3 billion, much less than the $26.8 billion imported from Russia by the United States.
Pork and poultry have been among the largest U.S. exports to Russia. Last year Russia accounted for only $95 million of U.S. beef’s $3.6 billion worth of exports worldwide.