Senators ask USDA to finalize comprehensive BSE rule

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2012- A bipartisan group of 31 U.S. senators, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) urging the agencies to finalize a comprehensive rule for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

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Regulations to implement safeguards against BSE began in 2004, but the senators said the lack of a comprehensive rule is harming the U.S. beef trade.

“Non-tariff trade barriers limit our ability to sell beef to consumers in other countries,” the senators penned. “Beef producers need our trade negotiators to significantly reduce or eliminate non-tariff trade barriers by requiring our trading partners to make science-based decisions regarding U.S. beef. By the same logic, it is also important for our government to take the necessary steps to properly address risk related to BSE by adopting a comprehensive rule.”

Citing an example of trade relations between the United States and Mexico, the senators said non-science based standards are limiting the United States' ability to sell beef in Mexico. While the International Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recognized both Mexico and the United States as having effective BSE risk mitigation measures in place since 2004, Mexico does not allow the importation of U.S. cattle over 30 months of age. The senators said this restriction results in U.S. beef producers losing $100 million annually.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Associate Director of Legislative Affairs Kent Bacus said cattlemen appreciate the letter because a comprehensive BSE rule in place will show the United States is willing to fully commit to OIE standards.

“The United States should not continue demanding our trading partners to follow OIE standards when we are not here at home. The comprehensive BSE rule will change that and will solidify the United States' commitment to basing our trade relationships on internationally-recognized, science-based standards,” Bacus said. “This rule has been a long time coming, and we stand ready to work with members of Congress and the administration to finalize this rule because it will give trade negotiators from the United States a stronger position to press other nations to follow OIE standards.”


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