The U.S. and the European Union (EU) signed an agreement in Geneva on Wednesday concerning the long-running dispute over hormone-treated beef. The agreement will provide the U.S. with additional duty-free access to the EU market of high-quality beef produced from cattle that have not been treated with growth-promoting hormones – 20,000 tons in the first three years and increasing to 45,000 tons beginning in the fourth year.

Under the agreement, the U.S. will maintain existing sanctions and will not impose new sanctions on EU products during the initial three-year period, and will eliminate all sanctions during the fourth year.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said, “The agreement gives us an opportunity to add the EU to the leading export destinations for high-quality U.S. beef, which will provide a substantial boost for U.S. ranchers and meat packers and their employees.”

This beef hormone dispute dates back to the late 1980s, when the EU banned beef from cattle raised with artificial growth hormones. In 1998, the World Trade Organization (WTO) found that the EU’s ban on U.S. beef was not supported by science and was inconsistent with WTO rules.