Next month is apparently the earliest Japan will come to terms with the U.S. about resuming beef trade. Keep in mind, that's coming to terms, not actually opening the gates.

That's based on U.S. officials meeting with their Japanese counterparts in Tokyo last week. According to various reports, the Japanese last week accepted USDA's audit of packing plants, and now will share the information and gauge consumer comfort through a series of public hearings. Presumably, after that will come Japanese inspection of packing plants here.

Bottom line, the best guess for trade resumption continues to be later than sooner. Even with access to the Japanese market though, it won't change the fundamentals of the weakening beef market here (see next article).

In the meantime, U.S. officials also concluded preliminary negotiations with China last week to hammer out a deal for resuming beef exports to that country.