NCBA voices concern over USDA’s Proposal to Import Fresh Beef from Northern Argentina
As 2014 wrapped up, NCBA submitted comments to USDA APHIS regarding their proposed rule that would allow the importation of fresh (chilled or frozen) beef, under certain conditions, from northern Argentina, a region located north of Patagonia South and Patagonia North B.
NCBA stands strongly opposed to the proposed rule on the basis of concerns regarding animal health. NCBA has long been a proponent of integrated domestic-foreign trade policy which encourages reciprocity, elimination of unfair trade restrictions and a movement toward private enterprise and free markets. Currently, the United States does not consider the region of northern Argentina to be free of Foot-and-Mouth disease. Opening this market for fresh beef presents significant risks for the possible introduction of FMD into the United States. FMD is an extremely contagious viral disease of cloven-hooved animals and many wildlife species and is considered to be one of the most economically devastating livestock diseases in the world. An outbreak of FMD could ultimately threaten the entire U.S. economy as well as jeopardize our national food security.
The region of northern Argentina is considered by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as a region free of FMD where FMD vaccination is currently practiced. USDA APHIS does not recognize countries or regions that continue to vaccinate against FMD as free of the disease and as such APHIS cannot recognize the northern Argentina region as free of FMD. APHIS, however, can evaluate the risk presented by fresh/frozen beef products imported under specific conditions. The proposal is based upon these assessments.
APHIS conducted their risk analysis based on a series of site visits to Argentina to determine the FMD risk status of these regions. NCBA’s repeated requests for written reports and standard methodology for these APHIS site visits to northern Argentina have gone unanswered. The lack of any documentation and an obvious lack of management controls for the site review process calls into question the integrity and quality assurance for the entire risk analysis process used to determine the risk estimation for FMD.
After realizing the potential flaws in the risk analysis process, , a group of bipartisan Members of Congress signed a letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting a GAO review of the APHIS site review process used to verify animal health data from requesting export countries. The Congressional members further called for a halt to the rulemaking process for northern Argentina until the GAO review could be completed and any corrective action to the risk analysis process implemented.
NCBA remains committed to supporting open trade markets, level playing fields, and utilizing science-based standards to facilitate international trade. At the same time, no amount of trade is worth sacrificing the health and safety of the United States cattle herd. Strict transparency of process and an adherence to sound scientific principles must be the basis for all animal health decisions of this magnitude.
Thanks to cattle producers across the country, over 295 comments were submitted. USDA-APHIS will review these comments before making a final decision on the proposed rule.