WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced yesterday that Mexico will resume trade in U.S. dairy heifers under 24 months of age.

"I am pleased with this first step in reestablishing cattle trade with Mexico, but I remain committed to a broader resumption of cattle trade between our countries," said Johanns. "My goal is to restore the once-vibrant live cattle commerce between the United States and Mexico and to do so in accordance with science-based international guidelines."

Under the agreement announced today, U.S. producers will be able to export dairy heifers to Mexico that are under 24 months of age and registered with a purebred dairy breed association or the Dairy Herd Improvement Association, a national dairy producer cooperative.

Shipments to Mexico can begin on Oct. 4. The dairy heifers will be individually identified as they depart the United States. Their identification information will be entered into the Mexican animal identification system for purposes of maintaining these animals under bovine spongiform encephalopathy surveillance.

Mexico closed its market to U.S. dairy heifers following the December 2003 find of BSE in Washington state. In March 2004, Mexico opened its market to boneless U.S. beef from animals under 30 months of age, and in February 2006, the country opened its market to U.S. bone-in beef from animals under 30 months of age.

In 2003, the United States exported $103 million worth of dairy heifers to Mexico.

SOURCE: USDA news release.