U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that the United States and Japan have agreed on terms and conditions that will expand U.S. beef exports to Japan. Starting on Feb. 1, Japan will allow the import of beef from cattle less than 30 months of age, compared to the previous limit of 20 months. Ambassador Kirk said, “This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies, who as a result of this agreement can now increase their exports of U.S. beef to their largest market for beef in Asia. This represents a significant and historic step in expanding U.S. beef trade with Japan and growing American exports and jobs here at home. We welcome Japan's action." The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said, “Japan is a great market for U.S. beef and we look forward to continuing to meet Japanese consumer demands. This move is an important step forward in paving the way toward greater export opportunities to one of our largest export markets.” In December 2003, Japan banned U.S. beef and beef products following the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United State. In July 2006, Japan reopened its market to U.S. beef, but only from cattle 20 months of age or less. Japan is currently the number two market for U.S. beef exports in terms of value and number three in volume.