WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2017 – U.S. veal producers are suffering because of what industry representatives say is a flood of Dutch imports that are priced below domestic cuts.
The American Veal Association (AVA) continues to contest the USDA’s decision last year to allow Dutch products back into the U.S. market, but now the group is hoping new tariffs will stem the flow of products from the Netherlands.
AVA President Dale Bakke said in an interview that the group will be represented in Washington at a hearing scheduled for Feb. 15, by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The USTR is compiling a list of European goods that could be hit with tariffs in retaliation for the EU ban on U.S. beef, which includes veal.
“For over two decades, U.S. beef and veal products have been unfairly kept out of the EU market by a beef hormone ban that goes against two rulings by the World Trade Organization,” said Bakke. “While this ban unfairly harmed many sectors of the bovine meat industry, the AVA believes that it has been particularly unfair to the veal industry because the FDA does not even allow the use of hormones in veal production.”
Bakke said that retaliatory tariffs would put a stop to Dutch exports and he stressed that the sooner that happens, the better it will be for U.S. producers.
That’s because hundreds of thousands of pounds of Dutch veal have already flowed into the U.S. since October – when USDA gave the final go-ahead for imports – and much more is expected.
About 700 famers in the U.S. produce about 48 million pounds of veal every year. The Dutch, said Bakke, are planning to export about 22 million pounds per year to the U.S.
Tony Catelli, president of Catelli Brothers Inc., a New Jersey-based veal producing-company that sells in the U.S. and Canada, said he’s already lost large sales because of cheaper Dutch imports.
“We’re definitely seeing large sales hurt because of the price point,” he told Agri-Pulse and stressed that because of the massive size of the industry in the Netherlands and domestic subsidies there, the Dutch can sell cuts for as much as $3 per pound less than U.S. producers can here.
The Netherlands slaughters about 1.4 million veal calves per year, roughly 6 times the production in the U.S., according to AVA data.
The AVA is focused on the retaliatory duties against the EU, but the group has not given up the fight against USDA’s decision to allow in Dutch veal, said Bakke.
The Netherlands was banned from exporting beef to the U.S. in 1997 after the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, in Dutch herds. It was nearly 20 years before the ban was lifted by USDA.
It was still too quick, according the AVA. The group points to unresolved issues over veterinary drugs used by Dutch farmers and unanswered concerns about food safety protocols in the Netherlands.
On March 4, 2016, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that the Dutch meat safety system was “equivalent” to that of the U.S., paving the way for a lifting of the ban on Dutch beef and veal. About seven months later the FSIS cleared the first Dutch slaughter facilities to begin exporting to the U.S.
But in between those dates, FSIS sent a letter to Dutch producers, warning them that their government allows producers to use veterinarian drugs that are not permitted in the U.S., and the country does not yet have a comprehensive system in place to test for dangerous types of the E. coli bacteria.
FSIS sent that letter in July 2016, and AVA leaders have been trying ever since to find out how the issues were resolved.
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“The myriad drugs approved for use by Netherlands’ veal producers is completely at odds with any sense of ’equivalence’ in the arena of livestock production methods between the U.S and the Netherlands,” Bakke said in a statement released in October.
The level of unfair treatment rises when you consider that Europe still bans U.S. veal as part of the overall prohibition on U.S. beef.
“The beef people are still allowed to use hormones, and that’s the concern of the Europeans, but we haven’t used hormones in veal for 20 years,” Catelli said.
There’s no reason that U.S. veal should have been swept up in the EU ban on U.S. beef, he said, but even more troublesome is the fact that European veal is entering the U.S. with residues of banned antibiotics and other drugs.
“We have no issue with the fact that the Europeans would be competing with us, but we want to be able to compete fairly and equivocally,” Catelli said. “That’s the gripe.”
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