Opposition to proposed import of animal products from Brazil

Farm Forum

WASHINGTON – Recently, National Farmers Union (NFU), along with the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting he withdraw the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal to relax restrictions on imports of animal products from Brazil. Recent revelations about the state of livestock health and food safety standards in Brazil raise additional concerns about loosening restrictions on imports.

Brazil has a long history of foot and mouth disease outbreaks among livestock, but recently bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), another contagious animal disease, was confirmed in Mato Grosso, a state in the region of Brazil from which USDA proposes to allow imports of animal products. When BSE was first identified in the United States in December 2003, 65 of our trading partners eventually imposed partial or full bans on U.S. beef.

“The health and integrity of animal agriculture is extraordinarily important to rural America and to the U.S. economy as a whole. Any threats to this industry deserve thorough investigation, and the events in Brazil warrant close scrutiny by the USDA before further advancing,” the letter states.

USDA recently released correspondence with Brazilian food safety regulators about the country’s meat inspection system. USDA conducted an audit in early 2013, which found concerns about Brazil’s ability to evaluate food safety procedures. Brazilian regulators have begun to consider changes in standards and enforcement, but have not fully implemented these measures.

“Family farmers and ranchers would suffer tremendously if an animal disease outbreak were to occur in the United States, both from the loss of livestock as well as from consumers’ loss of confidence in our food safety and animal health systems,” the letter concludes. “We look forward to working with USDA to ensure that our livestock industry remains strong and urge you to reconsider the proposed rule on Brazilian animal product imports.”