WASHINGTON — Nebraskans and Iowans can anticipate selling even more beef to Japan.

That country has agreed to lift restrictions on U.S. beef exports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday.

Those restrictions go back to 2003, when Japan banned U.S. beef products after a cow in the United States tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. That’s the degenerative nerve disease commonly referred to as mad cow disease.

Over the years, U.S. pressure was able to pry the doors open with Japan offering partial access for products from cattle under a certain age. Those age restrictions will now be eliminated.

Nebraska exported more than a billion dollars’ worth of beef and beef products in 2017, making it the top beef-exporting state for the second year in a row.

And much of that exported Nebraska beef heads for Japan.

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News of the agreement Friday was welcomed by Capitol Hill lawmakers.

“This is great news for Nebraska. Our beef is second to none and our cattlemen are going to make a ton of money when more Japanese consumers realize what a great Nebraska steak tastes like,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in a press release.

“Nebraskans produce some of the most high-quality and delicious beef in the world,” Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said in a press release. “It’s great to hear that Japan has lifted the restrictions on U.S. beef exports, increasing opportunities for our state’s ag producers.”

According to the USDA, the expanded access could boost U.S. beef exports to Japan to the tune of $200 million a year and could prompt other countries to relax restrictions on U.S. agricultural exports.

“We are hopeful that Japan’s decision will help lead other markets around the world toward science-based policies,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a press release.

Reporter - Politics/Washington D.C.

Joseph Morton is The World-Herald Washington Bureau Chief. Morton joined The World-Herald in 1999 and has been reporting from Washington for the newspaper since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @MortonOWH. Email:joseph.morton@owh.com

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