The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Russian Ministry of Agriculture have resolved the remaining technical issues in a long-running dispute involving poultry trade.

"This is an important breakthrough involving our largest poultry export market," said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. "We now can look to expanding our commercial, regulatory and scientific cooperation in agriculture with the Russian Federation."

The dispute centered around new veterinary standards agreed to last year but not fully implemented because of technical differences. This new agreement will enable inspections of U.S. poultry processing facilities by the Russian Veterinary Service to resume immediately.

The agreement was concluded in Moscow on Thursday by Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture Alexei Gordeyev and USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Dr. J. B. Penn.

"We are hopeful that this agreement now signals an era of much greater stability for our poultry trade with Russia," said Penn.

The technical issues related largely to differences between the Russian veterinary practices and those of the U.S. industry. Resolution of the issues involved utilizing the concept of "equivalency," achieving the same objectives but with different science-based approaches.

The Russians had earlier established a June 1, deadline for completing inspection of all U.S. plants under the new veterinary standards. This process now can resume almost immediately. Expedited visits of teams of Russian inspectors will begin this month. U.S. officials expect some flexibility in the June 1 deadline from Russia.

Establishing the equivalency concept parameters also involves a visit to the United States by a team of Russian specialists from the Ministry of Health and Veterinary Service. These technical discussions are expected to occur later this month.

The results of the technical discussions by the specialists will be reviewed and approved by Minister Gordeyev and Secretary Veneman when the Russian minister visits the U.S. in early May.