Billings, Mont. – R-CALF USA today called the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) proposed rule to lift foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) restrictions on Brazil inaccurate and unscientific. An early version of USDA’s proposed rule (officially scheduled for publication in the April 16, 2010 Federal Register) falsely claims the last outbreak of FMD in the Brazilian state of Parana (which borders Santa Catarina, the state USDA wants to declare free of FMD) was in 2005.

“This is false,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard, who cited disease information from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) that shows Parana, Brazil, continued to have new outbreaks of FMD into 2006, just four years ago. “OIE data clearly show that Parana, Brazil, had six new outbreaks and 20 cases of FMD in 2006.”

In addition, Bullard said the proposed rule also fails to mention the 669 cases of FMD that resulted in Brazil’s destruction of over 26,000 head of cattle within the past five years in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, which borders Parana and is in close proximity to Santa Catarina.

“It is disheartening that USDA has purposely and officially failed to disclose the severity of Brazil’s FMD situation, which is publicly available on OIE’s Web site, in order to advance its own agenda to import high-risk products into the United States,” he said.

Bullard also said USDA has a 100 percent failure rate in its attempts to “regionalize,” or carve out regions, within FMD-affected countries that export meat to the U.S., as it is attempting to do with Santa Catarina, Brazil.

“In 2000, USDA lifted FMD restrictions imposed on Argentina just before Argentina reported widespread FMD outbreaks in 2001, and then the agency tried to lift FMD restrictions against Uruguay in 2000, just months before Uruguay reported widespread FMD outbreaks in 2001,” he pointed out. “And most recently, in late 2009, USDA issued a final rule to declare South Korea free of FMD and then within just days of when that rule was to take effect, South Korea began reporting new outbreaks of FMD.

“Congress needs to rein this agency in before USDA causes the introduction of FMD in the United States,” Bullard urged. “We’ve already had too many near misses because of USDA’s unrealistic, inaccurate and unscientific evaluation of the true risks of FMD, which is the most contagious disease known to cattle.”

R-CALF USA encourages producers and consumers to urge their members of Congress to take steps to stop USDA from lifting essential FMD protections.

“It is clear that USDA is continuing to advance the interests of the World Trade Organization while ignoring its duty to protect U.S. livestock,” Bullard concluded.