Beef Importation Rules are Back in the Producers Court- Play Hard

The last few weeks have been quite the stir.  June 30, 2015 we heard the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the new rules that would allow chilled and frozen fresh beef from defined areas in Brazil and Argentina to be imported into the US and then the July 9, 2015 the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee placed an amendment on the Agriculture Appropriations bill that would stop the importation until certain circumstances are met.  First the USDA must conduct a comprehensive risk evaluation of importing meat from Argentina and Brazil and second USDA would need to make additional site visit to beef slaughtering and processing facilities in Argentina and Brazil and then submit a report to the Committee on Appropriations within 90 days after each site visit.

Dr. Silvia Keindel, Senior Staff Veterinarian, Regional Evaluation Services staff, National Import Export Services, stated that even though the Federal Register states that the rule is effective August 31, 2015 the US will not see imports of Brazilian or Argentinean beef in September.   Keindel, who was part of the team that traveled to Brazil and Argentina to assess their farms, laboratories, slaughter plants and the processes in place to insure food safety, states that both countries have many procedures and paperwork to complete before exporting beef to the US.

Dr Keindel was very adamant that she totally supports the science behind the rule change. 

“These countries have exported beef everywhere.  They have never been connected to a case of FMD outbreak related to the export of beef under the specified conditions.  I understand that people are afraid, but the science is good.”

The Beef Industry is looking at this situation in very cautious way. Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is highly contagious that affects pigs, sheep and cattle. Facts such as, the recent loss of 48 million birds in US due to Avian Influenza, the poultry industries complaint that the USDA did not act quick enough and the May 2015, report from the United States Governmental Accountability Office, “Federal Veterinarians- Efforts Needed to Improve Workforce Planning” basically stating the U.S. isn’t ready for FMD, have beef producers looking hard for ways to stop the importation of fresh meat from these countries.

The Obama Administrations refusal to make a Presidential Disaster declaration as requested by  Iowa Governor Terry Branstad  over the Avian Influenza, claiming it was within the States and counties ability to handle the outbreak also leaves beef producers wondering what sort of support they would receive in the aftermath of FMD outbreak.

The rules allowing importation of beef from Brazil and Argentina were published in the Federal Register on July 2nd to take effect August 31, 2015.   The amendment placed on the Agriculture Appropriations Bill by the subcommittee must now pass the full House and that language must also be supported by the Senate in their Appropriation bill.   The likelihood of the House and Senate passing these bill before the new importation rules go into affect are slim.

Tony Corbo, Food and Water Watch, states there is yet another hoop to be jumped through.

“While the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) rules cleared the importation of fresh beef from Brazil and Argentina based on animal health (which we disagree with) , fresh beef imports could not take place until the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) cleared the Brazilian and Argentine slaughter inspection systems as being equivalent to ours.  That still needs to happen regardless of the amendment to the FY 2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill.   

It is often customary for agencies to wait for the legislative process to be completed before they implement controversial policies.   I believe that both APHIS and FSIS will wait to make any moves until the Congress finishes the legislative process.”

To insure the safety of the United States beef, pork and lamb industries please encourage Senators Steve Daines http://www.daines.senate.gov/connect/email-steve and John Tester https://www.tester.senate.gov/?p=email_senator    to support the House Agricultural Appropriation Subcommittees verbiage which is contained below. Let them know your concerns about the risk of importing Brazilian or Argentinean   

o   SEC __ . None of the funds made available by the Act may be used to implement, administer or enforce the rule entitled “Importation of Beef From a Region in Argentina” published by the Department of Agriculture in the Federal Register on July 2, 2015 (80 Fed. Reg. 37935 et seq.) or the rule entitled “Importation of Beef From a Region in Brazil” published by the Department of Agriculture in the Federal Register on July 2, 2015 (80 Fed. Reg. 37923 et seq.) until the Secretary of Agriculture—(1) conducts a comprehensive risk evaluation that includes a quantitative risk assessment of importing beef produced in Argentina and Brazil’ and (2) makes additional site visits to beef slaughtering and processing facilities in Argentina and Brazil and submits to the Committee on Appropriations a report on each such site visit not later than 90 days after the date on which the visit occurs.”

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