WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2014 – The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says USDA has “charged blindly forward” with its plan to allow imports of fresh beef from northern Argentina, a plan that it says exposes the U.S. cattle herd to foot and mouth disease (FMD).
The proposal by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was announced yesterday and placed in the Federal Register today, triggering a 60 day comment period. A final rule will be issued at the conclusion of that period after APHIS reviews the comments.
APHIS said it conducted a risk assessment at the request of the government of Argentina that shows that the country is able to comply with import regulations that ensure beef shipped to the U.S. will not harbor FMD. The assessment included five site visits.
NCBA President Bob McCan said the APHIS assessment was faulty while noting that an FMD outbreak in the U.S. could have far-reaching consequences.
“This disease is considered to be one of the most economically devastating livestock diseases in the world and an outbreak of FMD could ultimately threaten the entire U.S. economy as well jeopardize our national food security,” McCan, a cattle rancher from Victoria, Texas, said in a statement.
McCan said NCBA made “repeated requests” for written reports from the APHIS site visits, only to learn that the agency does not require such documentation.
“This lack of documentation and an obvious lack of management controls for the site review process calls into question the integrity and quality assurance for the entire risk analysis,” McCan said. “Valid science-based decisions are not possible in this flawed system.”
McCan also said a third-party scientific review found “major weaknesses” in the APHIS risk assessment’s methodology, and that the foundation for APHIS’ proposal included an “overly subjective qualitative format.”
“NCBA remains committed to supporting open trade markets, level playing fields, and utilizing science-based standards to facilitate international trade,” McCan said. “At the same time, no amount of trade is worth sacrificing the health and safety of the United States cattle herd.”
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