USCA opposes altering trade restrictions with Brazil, Argentina

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Farm Forum

The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) submitted comments last week regarding two proposed notices issued by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS). The notices propose changes in trade restrictions with regions in Brazil and Argentina pertaining to Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). USCA issued comments opposing both proposed rules.

USCA President Jon Wooster commented, “The United States is classified by the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) as FMD Free Without Vaccination. The industry has worked very hard to maintain this status and it is a cornerstone of U.S. cattle producers’ reputation for raising the safest, healthiest beef in the world. We do not believe that Brazil or Argentina have the appropriate FMD surveillance, detection and response plans in place to support allowing imports of beef into the U.S. The risks involved with the changes proposed by USDA-APHIS are irresponsible and risk not only the health of the entire U.S. cattle herd but other cloven hoofed species. An outbreak of FMD in the U.S. would result in catastrophic economic consequences affecting not just the cattle industry, but our national economy as well. USCA does not support the proposed changes and we have submitted comments substantiating our position.”

Dwight Keller, Mandan, ND, chairman of USCA’s Animal Health committee concurred saying, “The USDA-APHIS proposed plans suggest allowing the importation of beef from 14 Brazilian states, an area that continues to vaccinate for FMD, and also suggests allowing beef trade with certain regions in Argentina that are bordered by areas where FMD has not been fully eradicated. It is also important to note that even vaccinated animals can be carriers of the virus. Widespread preventative vaccinations can potentially conceal the actual number of cases of FMD and could be one means the disease could enter countries, like the United States, which are FMD-free without vaccination. Animals can harbor and spread FMD without showing signs themselves, hindering containment and remedies. The USDA-APHIS proposed plan presents an admitted risk to the livestock sector in the U.S. Since any increased risk is unacceptable, we strongly urge the Department of Agriculture to withdraw its proposed changes.”

An FMD outbreak in Great Britain in 2001 resulted in more than 2,000 cases of FMD on farms throughout the country and more than ten million sheep and cattle were depopulated in the attempt to stop the spread of the disease. The crisis was estimated to have caused $13 billion in damages to agricultural and support industries as well as outdoor industries like hunting and recreation because of infected wildlife. It is estimated that any introduction of FMD into the U.S. could cost the livestock industry billions of dollars. It is a gamble the U.S. producers and consumers should not be forced to take.