Beef to European Markets
Non-Hormone Treated Cattle Program (courtesy USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website)
The Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) Program has been in effect since 1999, when the European Union (EU) and the U.S. agreed to control measures to facilitate the trade of non-hormone treated beef, including veal.
There are three principal components of this Program:
Cattle are to be grown in approved farms/feedlots and delivered to the slaughter establishment with shipping documentation that includes the statement “Cattle Meet EV Program Requirements for the EU” and clearly identifies the animals and the quantity.
Non-Hormone treated cattle and beef are segregated at the slaughter establishment and handled in a fashion that ensures that they are not commingled with other animals or meat.
Tissue samples from non-hormone treated cattle are collected at slaughter and analyzed in order for FSIS to provide export certification for this product.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has designated AMS as the competent authority for providing verification that cattle meet the specified product requirements outlined in QAD 1013 Procedure. The specified product requirements must be met through an approved USDA Quality System Assessment (QSA) Program. The QSA Program ensures that the specified product requirements are supported by a documented quality management system and is verified through independent, third-party audits conducted by QAD in accordance with QAD 1000 Procedure.
To operate an approved NHTC Program, a supplier must submit a documented quality manual that meets the program requirements outlined in QAD 1002 Procedure and QAD 1013 Procedure. Approved NHTC Programs that meet the specified product requirements outlined in QAD 1013 Procedure are listed in the Official Listing of Approved Sources of Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (pdf).
In order for FSIS to provide export certification for product:
All farms, ranches, and feedlots approved under these programs and that raise beef destined for shipment to the European Union (EU) as non-hormone treated cattle must be listed on the FSIS PartnerShare website.
There must be verification that there are effective controls at the slaughter establishment.
The EU export requirements are listed on the FSIS website.
American farmers and ranchers have been in the middle of a seemingly never-ending trade war between the United States and China. However, a recent victory offers hope to the nation’s beef producers.
On Aug. 2, President Donald Trump announced a new agreement that would increase U.S. beef exports by 46% in the next year to the 28-member European Union. In the next seven years, exports ought to increase by another 90%, rising from $150 million to $420 million, an increase of over 180%.
“This is a tremendous victory for American farmers, ranchers, and, of course, European consumers because American beef is considered the best in the world,” said President Trump in a press conference held in the White House Roosevelt Room. “The agreement will lower trade barriers in Europe and expand access for American farmers and ranchers. My administration is standing up for our farmers and ranchers like never before.”
However, before the deal can go into effect, the European Parliament must approve, and any exports will be contingent on being “hormone-free” to be in alignment with the European Union’s current guidelines.
Speaking in front of beef producers and European Union officials, Trump said, “Agricultural products and exports have increased by more than $10 billion, and beef exports have increased by more than 31%. In another major win, we fully opened the Japanese market to U.S. beef. We also opened markets in Tunisia, Morocco, and Australia.”
Some would say that China’s ongoing trade dispute with the United States has put the nation’s farmers in a tough spot. At present, China has halted importance of U.S. agricultural products, according to Bloomberg News, following Trump’s 10% tariffs on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports.
Hu Xijin, China’s Global Times Editor-in-Chief, recently tweeted, “Based on what I know, in view of new tariff threat by the US side, the Chinese side has decided to suspend tariff exemption for U.S. farms goods and Chinese enterprises have halted buying U.S. farm products. The Chinese side won’t submit to the U.S.”
Trump isn’t planning to back down anytime soon though. At the press conference, he told the audience, “When our farmers became victims of unjustified retaliatory tariffs from China and other countries, we provided $28 billion, over a two-year period, in relief. They were targeted, and we took care of our farmers and ranchers. And I signed a historic farm bill, which provides our farmers with certainty and the kind of certainty that they need while supporting increased agricultural exports.”
He added, “The agreement that we are about to sign keeps one more promise to the great patriots of American agriculture. These are indeed patriots. They’re always targeted first by other countries to try and take advantage of the United States. They’re the first to be targeted, but we take that target off their back. Opening markets for our farmers is about more than just an industry, it’s about a way of life. Generations of hard work, passion and dedication have gone into making America the largest producer of high-quality beef anywhere in the world, by far. We’re proud of our farmers and ranchers. We love our farmers and ranchers. And with this announcement, we take one more step in giving them the level playing field that they’ve really been looking forward to this for many, many years. They want a level playing field. That’s all they want. And nobody can beat them.”
R-CALF USA’s Bill Bullard points out however, that while the new deal should increase exports to the EU, the product in question may or may not be derived from U.S. ranches.
“EU’s seven-year 36,000 metric ton tariff rate quota is hardly something to write home about. Thirty six thousand metric tons of beef is roughly equivalent to 130,000 head of cattle. In June of this year alone, we imported over 150,000 cattle from Canada and Mexico. The new TRQ does not require the cattle from which the beef is derived be U.S. born and raised cattle. So, it is entirely possible that all of the increased quota can be filled by packers that source cheaper, non-hormone cattle from Canada and Mexico and slaughter them here in the United States.”
Bullard points out that without country of origin labeling for beef, meatpackers and retailers can label beef as “USA” beef even if the beef or cattle were imported from another country, so EU consumers will be none the wiser, assuming the beef coming from this country was derived here.
“With this new, exclusive country-specific quota, American ranchers have a guaranteed market share in Europe,” said Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). “We look forward to the European Union approving this agreement expeditiously.”
According to the USTR, the European Union has signed a Memorandum of Understanding raising quotas on U.S. beef products to 35,000 metric tons or $420 million annually.
“This is what our ranchers and our farmers, our producers across this great country, are after,” said Senator John Hoeven, R-N.D. “These are the kind of agreements that really make a difference. And that’s what this is about. This is about access to markets. We produce the highest-quality beef anywhere in the world. Our ranchers across this country are absolutely the best in the world. So when we get access to markets, then they can really go to town and outcompete really anybody, anywhere.”
This new agreement has earned praise from many industry groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and North American Meat Institute (NAMI).
“President Trump and his trade team deserve a lot of credit for standing up for America’s cattle industry and securing this important market access to Europe,” said Jennifer Houston, NCBA president and Ten-nessee rancher. “For many years it has been difficult for us to sell our high-quality U.S. beef to European consumers because of the restrictive tariff and non-tariff barriers, but the establishment of this 35,000 metric ton duty-free quota sends the signal to America’s cattle industry that Europe is ready for U.S. beef. All across America, our beef producers go to great lengths to raise safe and delicious beef products that are enjoyed by consumers around the world. It is exciting to know that European families will enjoy more of the delicious U.S. beef that we feed our families. And this would not have happened if it were not for the effort of President Trump and his trade team.”
“This agreement provides more reliable and consistent access to the EU market and will be a tremendous boost for the U.S. beef industry,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO. “The agreement sends a very positive signal to customers in Europe who see a bright future for U.S. beef and to producers who are interested in expanding their non-hormone treated cattle (NHTC) business but have grown frustrated as they struggled to recover the additional production costs. USMEF greatly appreciates the tireless efforts of USTR and USDA to secure better access to this very high-value beef market.”
“We again thank the Administration for prioritizing the expansion of markets for U.S. meat products,” said Julia Anna Potts, NAMI president and CEO. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Administra-tion to further reduce barriers impeding, and improve access for, U.S. meat and poultry exports in all foreign markets. It is critical to continue ongoing trade negotiations with China, to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and to further talks with Japan.”
This agreement has been years in the making. According to the USTR, “In 2016, NCBA, NAMI and USMEF requested the USTR to take tariff action under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to enforce the World Trade Organization dispute finding in favor of the United States against the EU’s ban on the use of hormones in cattle production. USTR held a public hearing on February 15, 2017.
“Negotiations resulted in a new agreement, which was approved by the European Council on July 15, 2019. It will go into effect following the European Parliament’s approval, which is expected this fall. With the EU providing a country specific duty-free quota for U.S. beef, the United States has agreed as a part of the agreement signed on Aug. 2, 2019 to conclude the proceedings under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 initiated in December 2016.”
Beginning in the ‘80s, which was when the EU experienced its outbreak of BSE or mad cow disease, the EU banned the importation of hormone-treated beef, explained Bullard.
In 1996, the year the then National Cattlemen’s Association merged with the major beef packers to form the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, this new and more powerful beef-packer lobby convinced the United States to complain to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the EU was violating the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement by refusing hormone-treated beef.