Comment period closes on Brazil beef import proposal

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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.

NCBA requested written documentation for the reviews and submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for additional information in an effort to fully understand and evaluate the risk analysis. According to NCBA’s comments, APHIS said written document of the site visits are not required, and the agency has failed to fulfill the FOIA requests at this time.

APHIS concluded in its risk assessment that Brazil had protocols in place to quickly detect and eradicate FMD if necessary, as demonstrated in 2005 and 2006. NCBA, however, questions the agency’s failure to consider animal disease reporting capabilities since then, pointing to a failure to promptly identify and report the country’s first case of BSE in 2010.

There has not been a case of FMD in the United States since 1929. According to NCBA’s comments, 627 documented outbreaks of the highly contagious disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals and many wildlife species between 1879 and 1963 revealed the majority were caused by the legal or illegal importation of infected animals or animal products. Reintroduction of FMD into the United States would result in almost immediate closure of international markets, significant economic impacts on the domestic industry due to depopulation, movement restrictions and potential shutdown of cattle trade in affected areas. In all, it could cost billions, according to NCBA.

Due to its significant concerns, NCBA requested APHIS to complete withdraw the proposed rule.

 To review the proposed rule and the comments, visit http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2009-0017


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Tom    
Montana  |  April, 24, 2014 at 04:29 PM

The American Farm Bureau should be ashamed of themselves. I doubt if they have policy to support this terrible rule.


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