With the comment period closed on a USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposal to allow fresh beef imports, under specific conditions, from 14 Brazilian states, the agency will begin wading through more than 800 comments submitted since the rule was proposed in December 2013. While some agriculture organizations, including the American Meat Institute and the American Farm Bureau, submitted comments in support of the rule, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association submitted extensive comments, based on both an internal review and a third-party scientific review, explaining its opposition to the proposed rule. The National Farmers Union also submitted comments opposing the rule.
The proposal would allow fresh beef from the Brazilian states of Bahia, Distrito Federal, Espirito Santo, Goias, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Parana, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Rondonia, Sao Paulo, Sergipe, and Tocantins. APHIS forecasts annual imports of fresh (chilled or frozen) beef from Brazil to range between 20,000 and 65,000 metric tons (MT), with volumes averaging 40,000 MT. According to APHIS, if the United States imported 40,000 MT of beef from Brazil, total U.S. beef imports would increase by less than 1 percent. APHIS also estimates that the wholesale price of beef, the retail price of beef, and the price of cattle (steers) would decline by 0.11 percent, 0.04 percent, and 0.14 percent, respectively.
NCBA, a group that regularly advocates for expanding international trade, says the risk of potential introduction of foot and mouth disease (FMD) into the United States from Brazil is far too great.
“While NCBA supports import rules based on scientifically informed principles and consistent with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines, NCBA does not support the proposed rule by USDA APHIS to import fresh beef from the Region in Brazil into the United States. We have significant concerns regarding the willingness, committed resources, and infrastructure of Brazil to consistently perform adequate risk management in order to mitigate the risk for the introduction of FMD into the United States through the importation of fresh Brazilian beef.”
In preparation of the proposal, USDA APHIS completed a risk analysis based on a series of site visits to the proposed export regions in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2013. NCBA contends APHIS did not review all factors for animal health status during each of its visits, and notes that factors like movement and border control have not been verified since 2002.