Stockgrowers Express Grave Concerns Over Import Rules

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack finalized two rules on Monday that will increase imports of fresh beef from 14 states in Brazil and from Northern Argentina into the United States. The Secretary’s rule would allow imports from South American regions known to have endemic Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and will likely lower cattle prices in the United States.

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association President Bob Fortune reacted by saying, “We are very worried that this rule will cause FMD outbreaks that can devastate our United States cattle herds resulting in massive infection of animals, economic losses to ranchers, and irreparable damage to consumer confidence. This rule is a bad idea for our family cattle ranches, it’s bad for our rural economies, and its bad for consumers.”

The rules, set to go into effect on September 1, would allow fresh (chilled or frozen) beef to be imported to the United States, assuming certain health and safety requirements are met by Argentina and Brazil in the process. However, Fortune says Brazil and Argentina don’t have a track record to back up those requirements.

“We know that both of these countries have struggled to meet import and inspection requirements under current rules, and USDA has had to suspend imports several times because of violations. Our ranch families deserve better protection to keep our animals healthy and our rural economies strong. Our customers deserve to know that their beef is raised under safe and healthy standards.”

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), one of the most contagious diseases known to infect cattle, is endemic in northern Brazil. Secretary Vilsack admits in his proposal for Argentina that the active FMD virus is present in these countries and that the U.S. Government Accountability Office has indicated that USDA is not currently capable of effectively responding to an outbreak of FMD in the United States. USDA also acknowledges that allowing beef imports from Brazil and Argentina will have a negative impact on U.S. cattle prices.

“Flooding the U.S. grocery stores with beef from South America will have a direct impact on our ranch families, and will only serve to compromise our consumer’s confidence in purchasing safe, high quality beef.”

Fortune concluded by saying, “South Dakota Stockgrowers Association is adamantly opposed to these import rules, and are very concerned that Secretary Vilsack would even consider adopting this rule that can only result in harming our ranch families.”