USDA to extend comment period for Brazil beef import proposal

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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 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.

If finalized, the proposal would allow 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.

To date, USDA has received 495 comments. View the full proposal and comments on the Federal Register under docket APHIS-2009-0017.

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Steve Baker    
MO  |  February, 27, 2014 at 09:19 AM

Last time I checked, Brazil had Food and Mouth Disease outbreaks occurring in several states. This devastating viral disease can enter the country in/on meat products. IN late 2013, this was their status: there were only two states in Brazil that were FMD free.

gary frenzel    
temple,texas  |  February, 27, 2014 at 11:22 AM

I have been to Brazil on 5 occasions and feel like with there infrastructure and internal corruption, allowing their live or frozen beef from so-called free states would present a huge challenge to our industry. Has everyone forgot the damage from the BSE incident?

tony newbill    
powell butte , Or  |  February, 27, 2014 at 11:24 AM

its all in the idea that this will keep the dollar relevant as the worlds trade currency IMO.

Chicago  |  February, 28, 2014 at 09:22 AM

We desperately need imported beef to temper the shortage here in the U.S. Ever since our American beef producers lost their ability to produce beef a few years back our beef has rocketed out of the reach of average American families. Ordinary ground beef at $5 per pound just isn't cutting it. Until major packers can integrate the beef industry like they did with pork and chicken we will struggle under beef shortages. In the meantime affordable beef from Brazil, Argentina or Australia are our best bet. Independent American cattlemen will never be able to maneuver the industry out of this debacle they have created, nor do they care to. Contract growing under the management of capable large packers is the only way to stabilize the industry going into the future. Let the little independent growers push their piddling volume of scrawny beef into the freezer trade or farmers markets or wherever. We can no longer afford to indulge them.

Nebraska  |  March, 03, 2014 at 09:33 AM

Pascal, look who is calling the kettle black. What debacle has the Independent American Cattlemen created? Cattlemen take the price the packers offer them. If it is not enough for a profit then they go broke. So who created this so called debacle? By the way will the Brazilians, Argentines, or the Australians pay the real estate taxes that keep the schools and county governments running? The Independent American Cattlemen, carry a heavy tax load to keep the school and county running. You seem to struggle with the idea of independent producers. It seems you like the indentured slave model of the pork and chicken industry. Here in the United States we have capitalism. Supply and demand. The packers have destroyed the beef supply in Canada and the U.S. and want to blame it on the independent producers. I would like to thank you for showing your true colors. Centralized planning (Communism), and pure selfish greed.

March, 04, 2014 at 03:27 PM

And just how are the major packers going to consolidate and integrate the cow-calf business which depends on a decentralized resource called grass? The packers will need to own most if not all the land base in order to keep the cows. Who will own the land and pay employees to keep the cows? The packers were very successful in the past only when they were able to exploit that grazing resource without paying for it or the labor required to keep the cows. The major reason that there were so few beef cows in the Northeast and why the cowherd of the Souteast has declined is the fragmented land ownership. Maybe the packers can take over the Southwest and and Plains States but that is just the regions that face the threat of decades of drought. Good luck with that.

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