Japan may ease restrictions on U.S. beef imports, raising the age limit on cattle from 20 months to 30 months as concerns about mad cow disease in older animals wane, according to reports.

The new rule would be good news for the U.S. cattle industry, which has lost $1 billion in sales per year since the restriction was implemented in 2003, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. “We have exchanged opinions on the issue through expert-level talks between the two governments, and we hope it will be resolved accordingly,” said Japan Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano.


No schedule has yet been set for a decision, but experts predict that if the age is raised, beef exports from the U.S. to Japan will return to pre-ban levels.