Though it seems anticlimactic after almost three years, Korea's announcement last Thursday to resume importing U.S. beef on a limited basis is a crucial step in normalizing beef trade. The ban is lifted on only boneless beef derived from cattle 30 months old or younger.

"While this still doesn't represent a full resumption of trade, it does provide access to significant value for U.S. producers," say National Cattlemen's Beef Association officials. "In 2003, the U.S. exported around $814 million worth of beef to South Korea, and boneless beef cuts accounted for nearly $450 million of this total."

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, says, "We look forward to expanding our access to the Korean market and other export markets to achieve trade consistent with international guidelines... We're mindful that significant technical issues exist that must be resolved. We'll continue to work with Korea to address these matters in the coming days."