Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S Farmers Weigh Payments for EU's Ban on Beef

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. cattle industry is willing to consider compensation as an interim step toward the European Union lifting its ban on beef from Monday.

And in Europe another beef battle is heating up as Britain threatens to retaliate against France's refusal to accept that British beef is clear of mad cow disease.

Chandler Keys, vice president of the U.S. National Cattlemen's Beef Association, bristled at the suggestion the industry's willingness to talk about compensation meant it was "softening" its position in the decade-old trade dispute.

"We're not softening at all," Keys said.

Last week, for the first time in years, U.S. cattle industry leaders traveled to Europe for face-to-face talks on the beef trade dispute with top European Commission aides.

While that visit could open the door for further discussions, the possibility of the EU providing an interim compensation package is "still very preliminary. It's almost not worth talking about," Keys said. "They're just throwing some ideas up on the dart board."

Earlier this summer, the United States received permission for the World Trade Organization to slap 100 percent duties on $116.8 million worth of EU goods in retaliation for the EU's continued refusal to open its market.

The WTO had previously ruled the EU's ban violated international trading rules.

The EU has insisted it has the right to conduct a new risk assessment on the safety of "hormone-treated" beef before opening its market. Those 17 studies, originally expected at the end of this year, are now due in mid-2000.

Under WTO rules, the United States could accept compensation from the EU for lost beef sales or continue its retaliation.

Keys said he returned from his trip frustrated by the EU's unwillingness to accept decades of scientific evidence demonstrating the safety of artificial growth hormones.

But because many EU consumers oppose lifting the ban, EU officials feel "in a box" on the issue, he said.

Meanwhile, France has warned Britain not to hit back over France's ban on British beef with a boycott.

The call from the French farm minister, Jean Glavany, came Monday as he and British counterpart Nick Brown prepared to meet Saturday in London amid hopes of a European Union deal to defuse the escalating row over food safety. France's decision to defy EU law by maintaining the beef ban has sparked outrage in Britain. Now some supermarket chains have cleared shelves of everything from brie cheese to baguettes and opposition Conservative politicians and media outlets have urged a boycott of French goods.

A two-day meeting of the EU's main scientific body, the Scientific Steering Committee, is scheduled to start to evaluate Thursday a 600-page report from France, which Paris says justifies its continuing a block on British beef.

With feeling running high in the cross-Channel beef dispute, there is immense pressure on the European Commission to find a solution to the row.