USCA - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on November 16 its decision to add the Brazilian State of Santa Catarina to the list of regions the agency recognizes as free of foot and mouth disease (FMD), rinderpest, swine vesicular disease, classical swine fever and African swine fever. The U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA) opposes this decision.

APHIS officials also announced the addition of Santa Catarina to the list of regions that are subject to certain import restrictions on meat and meat products "because of their proximity to or trading relationships with rinderpest or FMD-affected countries." APHIS officials say these actions update the disease status of Santa Catarina with regard to specific animal diseases while "continuing to protect the U.S. from an introduction of those diseases by providing additional requirements for live swine, pork meat, pork products, live ruminants, ruminant meat and ruminant products imported into the U.S. from Santa Catarina." The effective date of both decisions is December 1, 2010.

APHIS solicited public comments on its proposed rule for a period of sixty days beginning April 16, 2010 through publication in the Federal Register. Eighty-seven comments were received by the agency from U.S. ranchers and cattle producers, U.S. industry and trade organizations, a Tribal association, a consumer organization, State departments of agriculture, Brazilian trade and industry associations, a Brazilian government agency, the Canadian embassy and private citizens.

USCA filed comments on June 15 requesting that USDA abandon its proposed rule to add Santa Catarina to the list of regions recognized as free of FMD. USCA raised concerns with the APHIS risk assessment saying, "In the past, USDA has looked at lifting or regionalizing FMD restrictions in other South American countries like Argentina and Uruguay only to have FMD outbreaks recur within months of such rules being formalized. Related to lifting FMD restrictions with South American countries, the track record for past risk assessments and liberalizations has not been good."

USCA Animal Health Chairman Chuck Kiker, Beaumont, TX said, "There is simply no positive gain that justifies this decision considering the risk and consequences to animal health, food security, the economy and the environment associated with the potential introduction of such virulent and catastrophic animal diseases into the U.S. Santa Catarina simply does not come close to comparing with the standards of animal health practices, disease surveillance and bio-security measures practiced in the U.S. We disagree with, and are disappointed in, this decision to trade off animal health standards to remedy a trade problem concerning cotton."

A long-running cotton trade dispute, brought by Brazil against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization (WTO), resulted in a ruling by the WTO that Brazil could impose countermeasures against the U.S. that included a fixed amount of $147.3 million for cotton payments and an amount for export credit guarantees that vary based on program usage related to U.S. cotton subsidies. In April of this year, U.S. trade representatives met with Brazilian officials to negotiate a settlement in an effort to avoid the imposition of counter-measures on U.S. cotton. The negotiated settlement included a U.S. agreement to publish a rule recognizing the Brazilian State of Santa Catarina as free of FMD.

"The health and well-being of the U.S. cattle herd, and subsequently our economy, are heavily dependent on our disease prevention efforts, which must begin at our borders," noted Kiker. "This is no time to liberalize U.S. import standards. This is a flawed decision that sets an ominous precedent for other regionalization schemes worldwide and should be reviewed by policy-makers."

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