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Cochran pushing for end to Russian poultry ban

WASHINGTON — Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) yesterday said President Obama should pressure the Russian government to end its ban on poultry products imported from the United States.

Cochran is among a bipartisan group of 25 senators who wrote the President urging him to address Russian trade barriers on U.S. poultry products during upcoming meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

In January, Russia implemented a complete ban on U.S. poultry imports citing concerns over chlorine rinses used by American producers—an internationally-recognized method used to ensure product safety.

“The poultry industry is important to the Mississippi economy, and the Russian ban is harmful to the entire U.S. industry,” said Cochran, who serves on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. “President Obama should act to convince the Russians that their ban on American poultry is not based on sound science and should be immediately lifted.”

Prior to the ban, Russia averaged more than $800 million in annual U.S. poultry imports.

“Since 1990, Russia has imported U.S. poultry that was processed using chlorinated water to reduce pathogens and enhance food safety. Throughout this period, Russian authorities did not express any concern. Therefore, the current ban seems arbitrary and capricious. Science has shown the use of chlorine solutions to be a safe and cost effective way to maintain food safety during poultry processing,” stated the letter to Obama.”

“The cumulative effect of the actions taken by Russia’s government has been to keep U.S. products entirely out of the Russian market. We believe the United States and Russia should work together to promote trade between our two countries and lower barriers that undermine the bilateral relationship,” said the letter, which was drafted by Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and ranking member Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

The Mississippi poultry industry generated more than $2.3 billion in revenues in 2009. Poultry, the state’s largest agriculture commodity, directly employs more than 24,000 people, and another 23,000 hold jobs that are indirectly linked to the industry. Nationwide, the industry provides more than 500,000 jobs.

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