By NEMS Daily Journal
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, the influential Republican senior senator from Mississippi, and 24 of his Senate colleagues could congratulate one another Thursday when Russia lifted a ban on American poultry imports after talks with President Obama, who had been urged to seek the action in his meetings this week with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.
Cochran co-signed a letter with 24 other senators across the political spectrum in both parties seeking President Obama’s help in opening up Russian markets to U.S. poultry products, including Mississippi chickens.
The 25 men and women representing major farm states across the U.S. asked Obama to seek Medvedev’s attention while on a visit before the G20 economic summit in Canada this weekend.
The reopening of the Russian markets potentially means hundreds of millions of dollars in income for Mississippi poultry producers in coming years.
Obama pressed the issue, as the senators had requested. Bloomberg news reported that Obama said, “We have reached an agreement that will allow the United States to begin exporting our poultry products to Russia once again.”
Cochran and the other senators wrote to Obama because in January, Russia banned U.S. poultry imports citing concerns over chlorine rinses used by American producers – an internationally recognized method used to ensure product safety.
U.S. exports of chicken to Russia plunged 84 percent in the first four months of the year compared with a year earlier, and there were no shipments in March or April, the latest months reported by USDA.
In an internal economic move, the USDA said June 15 that it would spend as much as $14 million on dark-meat chicken for federal food programs in an effort to draw down inventories and boost domestic prices.
U.S. processors will use substances other than chlorine to disinfect meat to comply with Russian regulations, Bloomberg reported. The disinfectants will have to be tested and registered in Russia, Sergei Dankvert, the head of regulator Rosselkoznadzor, said in a statement reported by Bloomberg.
The senators were right to press the issue. When the United States has valuable exports blocked by actions of nations like Russia with whom we have normal relations, the White House should take up the cause, no matter who is president. Free trade is the fairest trade, and it’s important to Mississippi’s and the nation’s welfare.
Russian purchases had averaged more than $800 million for U.S. poultry before the ban.
The Mississippi poultry industry generated more than $2.3 billion in 2009.