The Agriculture Department published a list on Saturday of hundreds of beef and pork producing and storage facilities that are now eligible to export to China under the new, less-restrictive regulations negotiated in the “phase one” trade agreement. 

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service now names 492 U.S. plants that can export beef to China and 449 plants allowed to ship pork.

Chinese import restrictions have been far less damaging to U.S. pork producers, who continue to ship large amounts, but up until now U.S. beef producers have been limited to shipping very small quantities.

Among the hundreds of facilities now listed by FSIS for export to China are plants owned by companies such as Cargill, Tyson, Creekstone Farms and Iowa Premium.

As Agri-Pulse reported Wednesday, China agreed to lift its zero-tolerance policy for growth hormone residues in beef. China also eliminated its ban on beef from cattle over 30 months old at slaughter and agreed to accept the U.S. traceability system.

“This is an exciting day for the U.S. beef and pork industries, which have waited a long time to have more meaningful and reliable access to China …” U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom said Saturday. “With much broader access for U.S. beef, the U.S. industry is well-positioned to expand its presence in the largest and fastest growing beef market in the world.”

China has also just agreed to allow for the importation of beef trimmings, adding to the expansion of U.S. access to the Chinese market.

China’s agreement to accept the maximum residue levels for growth hormones under Codex Alimentarius – the same as Japan, South Korea and most other importing countries – is key to opening up the Chinese market. FSIS listed those MRLs for three of the chemicals in muscle, liver, fat, kidney and offal in its Saturday announcement.

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Back in January, when President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed the “phase one” deal, Kent Bacus, director of international trade and market access for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said China could easily become a top three market for U.S. beef "in the very near future."

USDA estimates that U.S. beef and beef product exports to China could reach $1 billion annually thanks to the China pact, but USMEF once estimated that China could be a $4 billion market for American beef.

China has not lifted its substantial retaliatory tariffs on U.S. beef and pork, but the country is accepting applications for exemptions to some of those import taxes.

Chinese buyers are already applying and receiving official exclusions for tariffs, USMEF spokesman Joe Schuele tells Agri-Pulse.

China currently charges 42% in punitive tariffs on beef and 63% on pork. Successful applications for exclusions get all of the punitive tariffs removed on U.S. beef – lowering the level to the base 12%. For pork, China is willing to lower the tariff rate to 33%.

“While elimination of all retaliatory duties is still the best way for China to level the playing field for U.S. red meat, the exclusion process is expanding opportunities for importers and for the U.S. industry,” said Halstrom.