Japan's Ag Ministry last week confirmed the country's 29th BSE case, this one a 6 ÂĽ -year-old dairy cow that died on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido. The cow was born in June 2000, before the Japanese government imposed its ruminant protein ban in 2001, the government says.

Meanwhile, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, Japan's new ag minister, recently said he won't lift the current restrictions on U.S. beef imports that call for only boneless product from animals 20 months of age or less. The U.S. is pushing for Japanese adherence to the internationally recognized 30-month standard.

In addition, a total of 22 U.S. plants can now export beef to Hong Kong. Among the added plants are facilities operated by Schrieber Processing Corp., Skylark Meats, Smithfield Beef Group, and Tyson Fresh Meats.
-- Joe Roybal