This week, USDA APHIS released their final rules for the Importation of Fresh Beef from Northern Argentina and a Region in Brazil. With this step by the Administration, these areas with a known history of Foot-and-Mouth disease would be allowed to begin the inspection process to import fresh and frozen beef products into the United States. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association stands firmly opposed to this regulation, not on the basis of trade but on the basis of animal health concerns; no trade is worth jeopardizing our herd health.

“The arrogance of this administration in continuing to press forward with rules that have a profound impact on industry, without consulting those affected, is appalling,” said NCBA President and Chugwater, Wyoming, cattleman, Philip Ellis. “FMD is a highly contagious and devastating disease, not just for the cattle industry, but for all cloven-hoofed animals and it can be introduced and spread through the importation of both fresh and frozen products. In 1929, our industry took profound and personally devastating steps to eradicate this disease and the United States has been FMD free ever since. But the actions of this administration for purely political gain threaten the very viability of our entire industry and threaten hundreds of thousands of American cattle-producing families.”

NCBA has demonstrated through numerous public comments and in person through meetings with staff and members, our concerns regarding the importation of fresh and frozen product from Northern Argentina and these 14 states in Brazil. There is a long history of repeated outbreaks in many of the neighboring South American countries, as well as a history of problems in both Argentina and Brazil with compliance to animal health and food safety regulations. Despite this long history of such an economically devastating animal disease, the Administration did not conduct an objective quantitative risk analysis for this rule, as was performed in 2002 for Uruguay.

“The haste and sloppy nature of this rulemaking points clearly to the Administration’s political agenda in forcing this rule forward, literally in spite of the science,” said Ellis. “This rule violated the federal rulemaking process, violated Executive Orders mandating scientific integrity in rulemaking, circumvented the ongoing Government Accountability Office’s review of the risk analysis process, and withheld critical information from stakeholders. Our office actually received over 600 pages of documents relevant to Brazil in Portuguese and over 25 percent of the documents for Argentina were posted to the Federal Register in Spanish, neither with any translation available. No one should have to learn a second language to review a proposed U.S. government regulation.”

The effect of an FMD outbreak in the United States would be devastating to animal agriculture and our entire economy with estimates for total economic losses ranging from $37 billion to $228 billion, depending on the size of an outbreak. Moreover, innumerable losses would occur through the closure of export markets, lost domestic sales, lost opportunities, and a loss of consumer confidence in beef.

USDA APHIS has worked for over 80 years to keep our country free of FMD, now is not the time to give up on that commitment simply to fulfill a political legacy.