WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2014 – The National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging USDA to scrap a proposed rule that would allow importation of beef from northern Argentina and Uruguay because of concerns about Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), a highly contagious animal disease.
“Livestock health is critical to production agriculture and our nation’s ability to provide a safe food supply,” NFU President Roger Johnson said in comments submitted to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). “Achieving the necessary means to ensure livestock health is a priority for NFU.”
Johnson said his group, the second-largest U.S. farmer organization, supports banning livestock, animal protein products and meat imports that would jeopardize U.S. efforts to eradicate livestock diseases, including FMD, and that allowing imports of beef from Northern Argentina could potentially conflict with these efforts.
In 2001, Johnson said, Argentina had an epidemic outbreak of FMD, just a year after the World Organization for Animal Health designated the country FMD-free without vaccination. Since then, the country had made several attempts to eradicate FMD, while concealing the outbreaks from the international community for months, he said.
“The economic impacts of an FMD outbreak in the U.S. would be tremendous,” Johnson said. “FMD is highly contagious and has the potential to spread very quickly. Given the rapidity with which FMD spreads, an outbreak would create devastating economic consequences for farmers and ranchers. Recent research has estimated outbreaks in FMD-free countries and zones cause losses of greater than $1.5 billion per year.”
Johnson noted that in 2001, an outbreak of FMD in the United Kingdom (UK) resulted in the slaughter or burn of nearly 3 million animals. The epidemic was costly both to farmers and the economy, with total losses to agriculture and the food chain amounting to roughly 3.1 billion pounds ($4.8 billion).
“Prior to the 2001 outbreak, the UK had gone 34 years without an outbreak,” said Johnson. “This particular example demonstrates that no country is immune to the devastating impacts of a FMD outbreak, and the utmost precaution should be taken when evaluating changes in import status from countries with a recent history of FMD.
“U.S. farmers and ranchers are known throughout the world for the high standards to which their livestock herds are raised,” Johnson said. “Our long-standing disease prevention efforts have thus far been successful.
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