Lincoln, Chambliss criticize Russia on lack of action in resuming U.S. poultry imports

By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Aug. 12 – Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) are urging the Russian government to fulfill its commitment to reopen Russia's markets to U.S. poultry imports in a joint letter sent to Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak.

“Russia’s refusal to resume poultry trade with the U.S. demonstrates an serious lack of commitment to the agreement reached by the two countries in June,” Lincoln said. “By creating an arbitrary trade barrier, Russia continues to hamper progress in U.S.-Russian relations. As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I intend to make sure the Russian government lives up to their commitment to resume fair and open U.S. poultry imports.”

“The action on the part of the Russians does not benefit them in the eyes of a lot of policymakers who are trying to make up their minds relative to other questions,” Chambliss said. “If we can't work out a deal on chickens and expect them to keep their word, how can we trust them on issues of nuclear weapon facilities?”

U.S. Poultry exports were barred from entering the Russian Federation on January 1, 2010, because of concern about the use of chlorinated water in pathogen reduction treatments (PRT’s) in American poultry processing plants. Despite there being no scientific evidence indicating that such use presents a health risk to humans, U.S. poultry processors agreed to forego the use of chlorine, prompting the presidents of the U.S. and the Russian Federation in June to announce an agreement to resume exports to Russia. The new barrier to the resumption of the exports was discovered during a July 28 trade hearing held by the Senate Agriculture Committee, chaired by Sen. Lincoln. The letter was sent Wednesday, a day before U.S. negotiators were scheduled to meet their Russian counterparts in Geneva to try and resolve the dispute.

Over the last three years, U.S. poultry exports to Russia averaged more than $800 million in value, making Russia the single largest U.S. poultry export market. The poultry industry represents over 500,000 jobs in the United States. In Arkansas, the Russian poultry market has been worth as much as $100 million a year, contributing to 88,480 or nearly 6 percent of all jobs in the state.

Full text of the letter:

August 11, 2010
His Excellency Sergey I. Kislyak
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States
2650 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20007

Dear Ambassador Kisylak:

We are writing to express strong concern about the lack of cooperation demonstrated by officials of the Russian Government regarding implementation of the June 24th Agreement to resume U.S. poultry imports into Russia.

As of January 1, 2010, U.S. poultry exports were barred from entering the Russian Federation due to questions raised about the use of chlorinated water in pathogen reduction treatments (PRT’s) in poultry processing plants. To this date, there is no scientific evidence presented that indicates such use presents a human health risk.

U.S. poultry processors agreed to forego use of chlorine in PRT’s for exports destined for your country, and would instead utilize one of the other PRT’s approved for use in poultry plants by both the U.S. and Russian governments. On June 24th, the Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation announced an agreement that would result in resumption of U.S. poultry exports to Russia within weeks.

In spite of the agreement, we learned last week that officials of the Russian Veterinary Service will require the re-inspection of U.S. poultry processing plants before restoring their eligibility to export product to Russia under the new PRT regime, representing yet another obstacle to resumption of trade. This new requirement appears to be inconsistent with the agreement of June 24th, which specified that plant eligibility to export to Russia would be governed by provisions of the 2006 bilateral accord on plant inspections.

It is our belief that this is inconsistent with the principles embodied in the World Trade Organization, which your country has endeavored to join for the last 17 years. In the absence of a quick and satisfactory resolution to this dispute, we would find it difficult to credit Russian willingness to adhere to those founding principles.

Further, the apparent unwillingness of at least portions of your government to live up to the agreement reached personally by both our Presidents raises broader questions about a range of other bilateral issues between the United States and the Russian Federation.

We urge you to communicate to your Government our concerns on this matter, and hope for the resumption of U.S. poultry exports to the Russian Federation without further delay.


Blanche Lincoln, Chairman
Saxby Chambliss, Ranking Republican Member

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