The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) says U.S. beef sales to Japan could increase by 35% in 2009, thanks to the stronger yen, which jumped 23% against the U.S. dollar in 2008, and more age-verifiable U.S. cattle eligible for export.

Phil Seng, USMEF CEO, says exports, including variety meats, may increase to 100,000 metric tons, up from 74,000 last year. U.S. beef exports to Japan, including variety meats, surged 59% in 2008 from a year earlier. Shipments by value rose 57% to $383 million, USMEF says.

Though the U.S. is still required to provide cattle under the age of 20 months, Seng says he's hoping for a resolution soon. A hopeful sign is that new U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose Japan for her first official overseas visit.