Daily Archives: January 26, 2006

Contrition goes a long way in Japan, U.S. military, diplomats discover

Contrition goes a long way in Japan, U.S. military, diplomats discover

January 26, 2006

BY JOSEPH COLEMAN
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Chicago Sun TImes

TOKYO — It’s among the most Japanese of traditions: officials accused of wrongdoing go before the cameras to express deep regret and promise to make sure it never happens again.

But lately, the bowed heads in Japan are American.

Taking a cue from Japanese culture, in the last few weeks a raft of U.S. officials — from the U.S. military, the U.S. Embassy, and the departments of State, Agriculture and Defense — have gone before Japanese officials to humbly ask for forgiveness.

The reasons have been serious.

In one instance, a U.S. sailor was accused of beating a Japanese woman to death outside Tokyo. In the other, a shipment of American beef violated Japanese food safety rules, prompting a halt to further imports.

In both cases, American officials have gone out of their way to pour on the regret — challenging stereotypes among a people who consider themselves the world’s premier apology artists.

”I figured the U.S. side would come up with some kind of excuse, but since they admitted it so honestly, it makes me think that the United States values relations with Japan,” said Hisao Iwajima, political scientist at Tokyo’s Seigakuin University.

The importance of apology in Japan is hard to overstate.

A person can easily ask forgiveness a dozen times in a day in Japan, using several different phrases. Store clerks will insist to a customer that ”there is no excuse” for having made him wait a matter of seconds.

Practical reasons

Niceties aside, the American effort to satisfy the Japanese makes hard-nosed diplomatic sense.

Major issues are at stake. On the military front, the United States can hardly risk a blowup of anti-American sentiment as it realigns its position in Japan and ramps up its military cooperation with Tokyo — which has troops in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition.

And Washington has a lot to lose by alienating Japanese consumers, who once constituted the largest overseas market for U.S. beef — $1.4 billion worth in 2003.

”It is obvious that the U.S. government tried to protect the general interests of American exporters,” said Michio Royama, a political scientist and commentator.

AP

US senator urges CAFTA delay over meat inspections

US senator urges CAFTA delay over meat inspections

WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) – The United States must not implement a hard-won trade pact with Central America until those countries accept the U.S. meat inspection system, vital for giving the U.S. industry access to new markets, a top Senator said on Wednesday.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said he had written to U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, noting the countries had committed to recognize the U.S. meat inspection system as their own but that not all have done so.

He did not identify any of the countries by name.

The U.S.-Central America Free Trade Pact among the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic — known as CAFTA-DR– was narrowly approved by Congress last summer after a bitter fight.

The White House had a harder time rounding up votes for CAFTA than for any other recent trade pact. Democrats oppose what they call weak labor and environment provisions, and some Republicans from textile and sugar-producing states fear job losses.

“The recognition of the U.S. meat inspection system by the CAFTA-DR countries was imminent at the time the CAFTA-DR implementing legislation was introduced in June 2005,” Grassley said in a letter to Portman, adding it formed “an important part of the context in which Congress approved the implementing bill.”

By recognizing the U.S. system, the CAFTA countries would accept the import eligibility of all USDA-approved meatpacking facilities, Grassley said. Some CAFTA countries currently require plant-by-plant inspections of individual U.S. facilities and these plant-by-plant inspections in effect limit exports of U.S. meat.

“I see no need for you to rush the implementation of the CAFTA-DR until this pending matter is resolved,” Grassley wrote.

A spokeswoman for the USTR’s office responded: “Having countries recognize the U.S. food safety system as equivalent is key prior to implementation of FTAs. DR-CAFTA countries clearly understood the need to recognize the U.S. food safety inspection system prior to implementation.”

“We are continuing to work with DR-CAFTA countries on implementation issues,” the spokeswoman added.

The United States missed its target date of Jan. 1 for implementing the CAFTA agreement, but said last month it hoped the countries involved would write it into law in the next couple of months.

Ag Expected to be on the Budget Chopping Block Again

Ag Expected to be on the Budget Chopping Block Again

KTIC Radio

Last year – President Bush proposed a 250-thousand dollar hard cap on farm program payments. Washington sources say the President’s Fiscal Year 2007 budget proposal will once again propose changes to farm program payment limits. That’s despite the belief of some southern lawmakers they had a commitment from the White House that the issue wouldn’t be addressed again until the new farm bill debate.

If sources are correct – the Bush budget proposal will also call for even greater farm program spending cuts than called for last year. Last year’s package included reductions in farm program spending by 5.7-billion dollars over 10 years.

Washington rancher talks about mad-cow discovery

Washington rancher talks about mad-cow discovery

Bill Jackson, Greeley Tribune
January 26, 2006

Bill Wavin said there was no way to prepare for what happened to his family the evening of Dec. 23, 2003.

Wavin, his brother and mother own the Sunny Dene Ranch of Mabton, Wash., a 4,000-cow dairy and farming operation. On the evening of Dec. 23, the family learned from the USDA that the Holstein cow first confirmed to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy — mad cow disease — had come from their farm.

Wavin, who is also a large-animal veterinarian, was the featured speaker for Dairy Days at the 2006 Colorado Farm Show on Wednesday. He told the overflow crowd in the Exhibition Building that it was only the third time he has spoken publicly about the situation that has had worldwide ramifications for the beef industry.

“I am not a public speaker. I am a farmer and a veterinarian, and I am media-shy. But I will say up front the media treated us right and treated the industry right,” Wavin said.

Wavin said he had heard media reports of a cow with BSE coming from his area of eastern Washington earlier in the day. But the initial reports had the wrong town and that the dairy had been quarantined.

“We hadn’t been quarantined, so I knew it wasn’t us,” he said. And that continued to be the feeling until the 8 p.m. call came from the USDA and Washington state agriculture officials.

Wavin said he and his family decided they would not talk to the media directly, but let USDA, FDA and state officials handle that for them, which, in retrospect, was a smart decision, he said.

Wavin said his family’s belief system and their belief in God is what pulled them through the initial shock. It was the support of his family, his community, the USDA, FDA and even the media who got them through the days after the incident.

“Just 24 hours after we got word, we went to church for Christmas Eve services. I sat across from a man who had a 70,000-head (cattle) feeding operation, and I knew I had changed his life. I knew he could be upset with me. But that didn’t happen. It was remarkable how supportive everyone was,” Wavin said.

He said that support continued through the following few days. His cooperative sent milk trucks out to collect milk from his cows.

“Six hours after the announcement, the trucks rolled right up in front of the press to get our milk. Vendors showed up to do their jobs. I think that sense of normalcy was comforting to the public,” he said. “Here was the first case of BSE in the United States, and nobody panicked.”

Wavin said he feels terrible about the collateral damage that has been done since that incident more than two years ago, but every other aspect of it was positive.

He lost 141 head from his dairy because they could have come from the same Canadian herd from which he bought the infected cow; the first reaction could have been to shut down everything and see his entire herd destroyed.

“The industry today is the same as it was with the guy with 40 cows years ago who was busting his hump to provide food for this nation. It just looks different now. Now, there are so many who are far removed from the farm that an inherent distrust could develop. But that has not happened,” Wavin said.

Mad cow again! Action needed now

Mad cow again! Action needed now
New feed rules must be at top of Harper’s list

Paula Simons
The Edmonton Journal

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Editor’s note: This is written as an open letter to Canada’s new prime minister, Stephen Harper

Dear Stephen,

I know you were busy Monday, winning an election and all. But there’s an important matter I want to bring to your prime ministerial attention. If you want to do Alberta beef producers and Alberta beef consumers a big favour, start by putting a comprehensive mad cow prevention policy at the top of your national “to do” list.

On Monday, while Canadians went to the polls, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced another cow had tested positive for BSE: bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Our latest mad cow was a 69-month-old breeding heifer, a Holstein-Hereford cross, from somewhere in north-central Alberta. That’s the fifth infected Canadian-born cow that’s turned up, and the fifth born and raised in this general area.

Given how many, many more cattle we test for BSE these days, it was only to be expected that we would find a few more sick animals. Back before we found our first mad cow in June of 2003, Alberta was only testing 150 to 200 specimens a year. Last year, Canada tested 57,766 cattle. Of those 30,536, or 53 per cent, were from Alberta. All were high-risk animals from the so-called 4D group: dead, distressed, diseased or downers.

With that massive increase in surveillance, finding one more positive sample should be no surprise. Indeed, it would scarcely be cause for alarm.

There’s just one problem.

This particular cow was only six years old. She was born in April 2000, three years after Canada instituted the feed ban that was supposed to prevent the spread of mad cow disease. That ban completely forbade the use of rendered cows, sheep, elk and other ruminants in cattle feed. The leading scientific thinking on BSE says that’s how cows get prion disease — by eating rendered protein from infected animals.

All the other sick cows we’ve found were either born before the ban or just after it came into effect.

So how did this heifer get infected? So far, no one knows.

It’s a troubling question — with even more troubling answers.

Are we to believe some farmer had contaminated three-year-old feed left over and that he fed it to his stock in defiance or ignorance of the law?

Or perhaps our existing national feed ban isn’t stringent enough.

FULL STORY