Johnson, Enzi introduce Foot and Mouth Disease bill
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) and U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) today introduced legislation to prevent the importation of livestock from Argentina until the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can certify that Argentina is free of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The Foot and Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2009 was crafted after hearing from concerned farmers and ranchers about the safety of their livestock.
In response to their similar legislation from last year, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Chief Veterinarian Dr. Clifford discussed his intention last fall to stop the proposal from moving forward until there is a USDA review conducted of the 2005 risk assessment on Argentina. However, Johnson and Enzi have introduced the legislation today to keep the pressure on the USDA.
“This is a new Congress with a new President in the White House, but we are not going to let an old problem gain footing. Foot and Mouth Disease is a highly contagious and destructive disease, and we cannot risk the health of our livestock herds for questionable imports from Argentina,” said Johnson, the author of the legislation. “We want the new Administration to understand the importance of this issue.”
“Argentina’s checkered past with foot-and-mouth disease makes importing these high risk meat products a recipe for disaster. With a new Administration and a new Congress, this is our opportunity to ensure our herds remain protected from this highly contagious disease,” said Enzi. “Until Congress can be satisfied that the proper management tools are in place to prevent the spread of FMD to the United States we should pass on meat products from that country.”
Johnson and Enzi developed the legislation after hearing from constituents concerned with the USDA’s plan to allow cattle, sheep and swine and certain livestock product imports from a region within Argentina. Although the region itself is believed to be free of the disease, FMD is found in the surrounding regions and countries. The potential risk of airborne transmission and contamination remains high.
Foot and Mouth Disease affects ruminants and swine, and is considered to be the most economically devastating of all livestock diseases. According to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the economic impacts of the disease in the United States could cost the economy billions of dollars.
“While I certainly support trade based on science, prioritization must occur. Regionalization efforts should start at home and resources should be spent on enhancing animal health in the United States, along with efforts to increase our exports, prior to spending precious resources in foreign countries in attempts to increase food imports,” said Sam Holland, South Dakota State Veterinarian and Past President of the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials.
The Foot and Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2009 has the support of organizations across the state and nation, including the American Sheep Industry Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, R-CALF, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, the National Farmers Union, Wyoming Stock Growers Association and Dakota Rural Action.