Johnson, Enzi introduce Foot and Mouth Disease prevention bill
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) and U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) introduced legislation July 10 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 2008 was crafted after hearing from concerned farmers and ranchers about the safety of their livestock.
“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, on July 10. “Farmers and ranchers across South Dakota remain rightly concerned about the USDA’s proposal. The bill introduced today will ensure Argentina is free of the disease before any livestock cross our borders.”
“Keeping the American beef supply safe is paramount to the U.S. continuing to produce and sell the highest quality meat products in the world,” said Enzi. “The risks of importing live animals from countries with known cases of Foot and Mouth Disease are not worth taking. This bill would continue to keep American beef the safest in the world by maintaining the ban on live animals and fresh meat from Argentina, a country that is still in the progress of eradicating foot-and-mouth disease from its own herds.”
Johnson and Enzi developed the legislation after hearing from their constituents concerned about 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.
“As a state animal health official, I remain concerned that while the United States has been free of FMD for nearly 80 years, the same cannot be said for Argentina,” said Sam Holland, President of the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials and South Dakota State Veterinarian. “Until Argentina can prove its infrastructure by remaining free of FMD, we need to ensure the safety of our livestock herds here at home and prevent the spread of this devastating disease. This is not a political issue, this legislation is a common sense approach.”
The Foot and Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2008 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 Western Organization of Resource Councils, and Dakota Rural Action.
Johnson and Enzi have been joined by a number of their colleagues on this legislation, including Senators Tester (D-MT), Barrasso (R-WY), McCaskill (D-MO), Domenici (R-NM), Dorgan (D-ND) and Allard (R-CO).