The Irish Farmers’ Association has welcomed steps by Washington which would allow the importation of European beef into the United States

A draft law has been published aimed at lifting a ban in place since 1997 due to BSE.

The proposed law is now open for public consultation for 60 days, but no re-opening date after that has been announced.

At a press conference at the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Washington yesterday, Ireland was specifically mentioned as one of three European countries that could export sooner than others, if and when the ban is lifted, because it has fulfilled other animal health criteria.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney welcomed the development.

“This is a very important first step in a process which I believe will ultimately provide a tremendous opportunity for high quality, grass fed, Irish beef,” he said.

A spokesman for EU Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Ciolos described the news as a significant step towards a resolution.

IFA President John Bryan said "the move to the US market for Irish beef would be a major prize and should be pursued vigorously."

He said there were real opportunities for Irish beef in the US, based on its high quality and natural grass-based production.