In December 2013, the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a proposed rule that would allow the importation of beef from 14 states in Brazil. According to USDA, the changes would allow the importation of chilled or frozen beef while continuing to protect the U.S. from an introduction of foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease.
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FMD is a severe, highly contagious viral disease found in cows, among other animals, cites APHIS. The disease is a worldwide concern as it can spread quickly and cause significant economic loses. While many countries are dealing with FMD in their livestock populations, the U.S. eradicated the disease in 1929. (This type of FMD does not pose risks to humans.)
In August 2014, USDA published a notice announcing the FMD-free status of the Patagonia region of Argentina and allowing for the importation of fresh and frozen beef as well as live animals from this region. In addition, USDA published a proposed rule to allow the export of fresh beef from northern Argentina to the U.S.
Both rules have been finalized causing conflicts to form related to USDA’s interest in allowing the imports of Brazilian and Argentinian beef. There are concerns from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) whether Brazil and Argentina are wiling to put the protocols in place to ensure FMD is never introduced in the U.S.
During the comment period, Bob McCan, NCBA past president, noted that while the organization believes domestic-foreign trade is important, they are committed to ensuring the continued health and well-being of the U.S. cattle herd and to producing safe and wholesome beef products for consumers.
He writes, “We have significant concerns regarding the willingness, committed resources, and infrastructure of Brazil to consistently perform adequate risk management in order to mitigate the risk for the introduction of FMD into the United States through the importation of fresh Brazilian beef.”
McCan says NCBA is also concerned because Northern Argentina is a region that is not recognized as being free of FMD by APHIS and it is still vaccinating against the disease.
During the recent 2016 Cattle Industry Convention, Colin Woodall, NCBA senior vice president for governmental affairs, re-stressed that this is not a trade issue, this is an animal health issue.
“It’s not a trade issue, it’s an animal health issue, and that’s the way we’ve always approached this,” says Woodall in an interview. “One of the things that we were able to do in the Omnibus bill was get language that truly spells out the Congressional intent on what they want USDA to do when looking at other countries and trying to approve other countries to export product into the United States, which we had not had before. So this is a big win for us, to make sure that the process has been fixed and we’re communicating on the same wavelength.”
NCBA remains highly concerned with the imports from these two regions and has made the issue a priority for the organization in 2016. They are continuing to raise concerns about the process used to evaluate the protocols in place to protect animal health in the U.S. specifically from FMD.
The next steps, says McCan, is for a facility in the covered regions to request FSIS inspection for equivalency.