WTO on Argentina beef: U.S. can eat it | TSLN.com

WTO on Argentina beef: U.S. can eat it

Argentina's last Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak was in 2006. The U.S. last experienced an outbreak in 1929. The World Trade Organization ruled Aug. 31 that the U.S.'s ban on fresh beef from that country had "no scientific justification." istock photo

Where does your food come from?

Those involved in production agriculture know that food is not generated in a grocery store. How about the rest of the nation?

The World Trade Organization has handed Argentina one more victory in their endeavor to place fresh South American beef on U.S. grocery shelves.

August 31, a WTO Dispute Settlement Body in Geneva ruled in favor of Argentina's claim against the United States.

According to a news release from the Argentina Embassy in the U.S., "A WTO dispute panel court ruled in favor of Argentina on all major claims made by our country against the measures taken by the U.S. to ban the access to the country of fresh beef – chilled or frozen- from anywhere in Argentina, and of animals, meat and animal products from Patagonia.

The panel largely agreed with Argentine claims and concluded that the sanitary measures applied by the U.S. to Argentine meat are incompatible with international trade rules."

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The WTO also stated that U.S. health measures have "no scientific justification," are discriminatory, and are more restrictive than necessary, according to the release.

According to another Argentina Embassy news release, the WTO report is final and cannot be appealed. "The U.S. is bound to implement the resolutions and recommendations of the (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body and put their sanitary measures in conformity with WTO international trade rules," the release said.

In addition to the WTO's ruling, the U.S. Department of Agriculture this summer approved their own rule to allow fresh and chilled beef from Argentina and Brazil.

The United States hasn't had a case of Foot and Mouth Disease in cattle since 1929. Argentina had an outbreak in 2006.

Over 10 million cattle and sheep were euthanized during the United Kingdom's FMD outbreak in 2001. It is estimated the disease cost the country $16 billion.

Within the U.S. Department of Agriculture are many sub-agencies – two are the Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection service.

APHIS, in July, amended its regulations to allow 14 states in Brazil and northern Argentina to export fresh and chilled beef to the United States.

At that time, Bill Bullard, spokesman for R-CALF USA, said that said beef would not enter the United States until packing plants in those South American regions had been approved by FSIS for importation into the U.S.

Beef and cattle groups across the country cheered this summer when both the Senate and House Ag Subcommittees of their respective appropriations committees included amendments to deny funding for importation of fresh and chilled beef from Argentina and Brazil.

South Dakota Cattlemen's Association President Todd Wilkinson, a cattle feeder and cow-calf man from DeSmet, said everyone should be extremely alarmed with the possibility of Argentinian chilled beef entering this country.

"Our hope is that the legislation passed in both the house and senate committees will become part of an omnibus bill and we can cut of the funding for the APHIS rule going into effect."

Wilkinson added that FSIS isn't expected to approve any of the eligible meat plants for importation into the U.S. until at least 2016.

The South Dakota Cattlemen's Association won't support importation of beef from either Argentina or Brazil until they've seen demonstrated integrity of each country's inspection service, he said. Documentation of acceptable health and sanitary measures has been hard to come by, Wilkinson said. "APHIS is saying they won't give it to us. It's only reasonable that beef producers in the U.S. see documentation rather than relying on a single source (APHIS) saying that it's safe."

Bullard also pointed out in a news release that the US Government Accountability Office issued a report in May saying that the USDA does not even know how many veterinarians it would need for an emergency response to an animal disease outbreak, "such as a large-scale outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in livestock."

Processed beef from Brazil is regularly imported into the U.S. On Aug. 31, 2015, the same day the WTO ruled that the U.S. was unfairly preventing Argentinian beef from entering the country, FSIS reported that a Florida establishment recalled over 7,000 pounds of canned corned beef from Brazil that had not been presented at the U.S. point of entry for FSIS inspection.

The recall was considered "Class 1" which is described on the FSIS site as "a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death."

Food and Water Watch, a consumer protection agency has long held concern over FMD and importation of beef from affected countries. "Brazil and Argentina have checkered food safety records, as USDA has been forced on several occasions to suspend imports of products currently eligible to come into the U.S. for various food safety violations and for failure to meet our inspection standards," said Wenonah Hauter, their spokesman, in a news release just days ago.

That group, along with several livestock organizations worry that the recent move in Congress to dismantle country of origin labeling along with the approval of importation of fresh beef from countries with histories of disease problems would create a "double whammy" for U.S. cattle producers.

If mandatory COOL were to remain in place, the playing field would be less skewed.

"This…rule…(regarding Argentina and Brazil) will inevitably bring in more product from our international trading partners. I believe U.S. cattlemen and women can compete with anyone in a free market system working with full information at the point of sale, as we have had the past 6 years with COOL in place," said Danni Beer, U.S. Cattlemen's Association President in a news release.