• Staff report

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A delegation of U.S. agricultural officials and experts met Wednesday with Japanese consumers to explain about American beef and why they want to quickly resume exports to Japan.

Delegation leader Chuck Lambert, the U.S. deputy undersecretary of agriculture, later told a news conference that almost all of the 100 housewives they met told U.S. officials they would buy U.S. beef if given the opportunity. Shipments of the meat have been halted since December 2003 after the U.S. saw its first case of mad cow disease.

But another U.S. official did not seem as optimistic.

“When you have a broad range of audience you will have a broad range of understanding,” said Valerie Ragan, a senior official at the U.S. Agricultural Department, after the meeting, organized by the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “We were at least able to provide some information to consumers.”

Lambert said Washington is doing its utmost to meet the “political concerns in Japan that far exceed the international (safety) guidelines” to convince Japan to resume beef imports.

“The rest is up to the government of Japan to allow us the door to sell us our product,” said Lambert, who was on a three-day visit to Japan to discuss beef imports with Japanese officials.

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