Deal Near to Resume U.S. Beef

NEW YORK -- The United States and Russia have nearly completed a deal to loosen restrictions on beef exports to Russia, a pact U.S. beef producers are counting on to be a key revenue driver, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

"We've got this down to a minimal number of issues. We're going to get this done," Richard Crowder, former chief agriculture negotiator for the U.S. trade representative, told the Journal. Crowder is now a consultant and negotiator for the U.S. trade representative.

U.S. beef exports nosedived following the discovery in December 2003 of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease. Trade remains limited with coveted markets, including Japan, South Korea and China.

U.S. exporters are able to export beef legally to Russia, but only under a November 2006 accord that applies cumbersome restrictions on what can be sent, the Journal said.

No shipments to Russia have been made under that deal, but at least one sale was recently struck, the Journal said, citing U.S. government and industry officials.