Japan, along with South Korea and other major foreign beef markets, banned US beef in December 2003 after the US Department of Agriculture announced finding its first case of BSE in Washington state.
Japan resumed the trade in US beef last December was cut this short in January of this year after US processors accidentally included banned spinal cord parts in some shipments.
In recent months Japan was leaning to toward lifting its ban on US beef, until under BSE case was confirmed in the country.
Beef and beef exports to Japan, the US's largest market before the ban, were valued at $1.2 billion in 2003. After the first case of BSE was discovered in Washingtion US beef exports fell by 64 per cent, with Japan representing half that market.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced today that Japan would resume imports of US beef from cattle 20 months of age and younger. He said that the US had restrictions in place to penalize companies that sent noncompliant shipments to Japan.
"This has been a long process as we've confirmed that our system is in full compliance with Japan's import requirements and provided Japan with clear, scientific data confirming that American beef is extremely safe," he said at a press conference.
The news comes as the USDA announced that beef production reached 2.43 billion pounds in June, nine per cent above the level achieved a year ago.
Cattle slaughter totaled 3.16 million head, up eight per cent from June 2005. The average live weight was up 14 pounds from the previous year, at 1,259 pounds per head.
January-to-June 2006 commercial red meat production was 23.3bn pounds - a five percent increase over the same period in 2005. Accumulated beef production was up seven per cent from last year and pork production was up two per cent. Veal production dropped four per cent, while lamb and mutton production was up two per cent.