The comment period for a proposed rule to allow fresh beef imports, under specific conditions, from 14 Brazilian states, will be extended for 60 days, according to NCBA, which requested an extension in early January. The new deadline to submit comments is April 22, 2014.
According to USDA, the proposal would allow the importation of chilled or frozen beef while continuing to protect the United States from an introduction of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). In its announcement in December, USDA said based on a risk assessment and a series of site visits, the agency concluded that Brazil had the veterinary infrastructure in place to detect and effectively eradicate an FMD outbreak of necessary. Additionally, imported beef would be subject to regulations that would mitigate the risk of FMD introduction, including movement restrictions, inspections, removal of potentially affected parts and a maturation process. According to APHIS, prior to importation, USDA’s FSIS must also determine Brazil as eligible to export fresh/frozen beef products after a final regulation by APHIS has been published.
A proposal like this requires extensive information and research. And according to NCBA’s Colin Woodall, it is imperative that all stakeholders have adequate time to review the proposal.
“This is a big rule and it has major implications, not only with our trading partners but also in relation to foreign animal disease management within this country,” Woodall said. “So we need to make sure we have all the facts, know all the data that USDA has used in formulating this proposed rule and make sure we can adequately prepare comments that help us make a good decision on how we best protect our domestic herd here in the United States.”
The procedures USDA follows to allow other countries to export live animals or animal products to the United States are long and complicated (view the procedures here http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/animals/downloads/regionalization_process.pdf) but the goal is to have a process to establish regionalized, risk-based import requirements that are consistent with science-based, international animal health guidelines. Woodall says in addition to internally reviewing USDA’s documents in the proposal and preparing comments, the organization is identifying a risk assessor who can provide a third-party review of the documents.
“We believe in the OIE. We believe in taking down trade barriers. We believe in making sure we have the opportunity for as much trade as possible, but we need to make sure we’re doing that without putting our domestic herd at risk,” Woodall said.