USDA APHIS to allow beef imports from Brazil, Argentina
On the same day that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is meeting with President Barack Obama, the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced it would allow fresh beef to be imported from northern Argentina and 14 Brazilian states.
The announcement of planned publication of a final rule in the Federal Register came out this morning. Obama and Rousseff visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial together this afternoon, and are scheduled to dine together tonight.
Both the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., denounced the decision to import the beef, even though APHIS noted that the United States has been importing beef from nearby Uruguay for years.
“Over the past 10 years, USDA scientists have made multiple visits to Brazil and Argentina to assess the risk of the transmission of FMD into the U.S. through beef imports,” a USDA official said. “We determined that, if a specified list of conditions is met, the risk of that transmission is very low.”
This is the first step of a process for these regions to gain access to the U.S. market for beef, the official said.
“Brazil and Argentina also need to meet food safety standards,” the official said.
“Currently, USDA is assessing their equivalence with U.S. standards, and will shortly begin reviewing these two countries for specific food safety concerns. Brazil and Argentina will need to meet those standards prior to being able to export any beef to the United States.”
DeLauro said she was “greatly disappointed that USDA is moving forward to allow beef imports from parts of Brazil and Argentina.”
“America has not had a case of foot and mouth disease since 1929 because of our strict ban against the importation of live animals or meat from countries that have experienced this virulent animal disease, as Brazil and Argentina have previously,” DeLauro said.
“The Government Accountability Office has been asked to study the risk of contamination from Argentina and Brazil, but that work has not yet been completed,” she said.
“While these rules involve an animal health issue, both countries have a checkered food safety past,” DeLauro said. “Recent audits show that there are deficiencies in both of their inspection systems.”
“This is a clear example where trade is trumping the safety of our food supply,” she added.
“The arrogance of this administration in continuing to press forward with rules that have a profound impact on industry, without consulting those affected, is appalling,” said NCBA President Philip Ellis, a Chugwater, Wyo., cattleman.
“FMD is a highly contagious and devastating disease, not just for the cattle industry, but for all cloven-hoofed animals and it can be introduced and spread through the importation of both fresh and frozen products,” Ellis said.
“In 1929, our industry took profound and personally devastating steps to eradicate this disease and the United States has been FMD-free ever since,” he said.
“But the actions of this administration for purely political gain threaten the very viability of our entire industry and threaten hundreds of thousands of American cattle-producing families.”
–The Hagstrom Report