WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2013 – The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing a rule change that would allow the importation of fresh beef from certain states in Brazil, under conditions that protect the U.S. cattle herd from foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

APHIS said Brazil has the veterinary infrastructure to detect and eradicate an FMD outbreak. In addition, the 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,’’ APHIS said today in a news release.

Earlier this week, the USDA and its Brazilian counterpart issued a statement “confirming their mutual commitment to science-based rulemaking” and to addressing rules limiting bilateral beef trade.  APHIS said the rule change proposed today is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Dec. 23 and that it will consider comments from interested parties received on or before Feb. 21.

FMD is a highly contagious viral disease of cattle and other cloven-hoofed animals that is only rarely transmitted to humans. The last outbreak in the U.S. occurred in 1929 in California.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which bills itself as “the voice of the American beef industry,’’ applauded the USDA for taking steps that would lead to expanded beef trade.

Cattlemen and women appreciate the administration's efforts to help expand export markets for beef trade, based on internationally sound science,’’ NCBA President Scott George said in a statement. “With 96 percent of the world's consumers living outside U.S. borders, it's critical that we expand our opportunities to sell beef in the international marketplace if we want to keep American family farms in business.’’

The plan came under fire, however, from R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America, an organization of independent cattle producers.

“[The] APHIS proposal is irresponsible and will wreak havoc on the economy of rural America that is certain to be harmed both by falling cattle prices and the increased risk of disease introduction,” R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard said in a statement. R-CALF stands for Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal.

Antonio Carmadelli, the head of an association of Brazilian beef exporters, said the industry welcomes the APHIS proposal.

“It is something spectacular to open a huge market such as the U.S. for Brazilian beef,” Carmadelli told Merco Press, the South Atlantic News Agency.

The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of beef, 11.6 million tons a year, of which 1.02 million tons are imported.


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