A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pressing trade officials to quickly resolve Russia's recent ban on U.S. meat, according to a report from The Hill’s On the Money Blog.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and panel ranking member Thad Cochran (R-MS) were joined by 31 other senators on Tuesday in urging the U.S. Trade Representative to deal with Russia’s import ban on U.S. beef, poultry and turkey, they argue would cost the industry $600 million a year.
They argue that the ban “is unfounded, not based on sound science and violates World Trade Organization rules,” they wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
“With your swift action and use of all enforcement tools available, it is our sincere hope that the issues surrounding Russia’s import ban can be quickly and decisively resolved, thereby ensuring a stable and predictable trading environment for U.S. livestock producers and exporters,” the lawmakers wrote.
On Feb. 11, Russia announced its ban on U.S. meat imports over the feed additive ractopamine, which is approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an international organization that sets science-based food safety standards.
In a statement following that decision last week, Kirk and Agriculture Secretary  Tom Vilsack said that Russia has “disregarded the extensive and expert scientific studies conducted by the international food safety standards body.”
U.S. officials said Russia went ahead with the ban despite repeated requests to discuss the safety of ractopamine.
Russia joined the WTO in August after a nearly 19-year effort to join the trade group. Congress provided for permanent normal trade relations in December.
But the decision by lawmakers to tack on a human-rights provision that punishes Russian officials for their involvement in the death of whistleblower lawyer Sergei Magnitsky has, some trade experts say, led to political backlash from Russia.
Shortly after President Obama signed the legislation, lawmakers in Moscow voted to ban U.S. families from adopting Russian children.