NCBA pushes back on USDA decision to allow beef imports from Paraguay

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says it strongly opposes the USDA’s decision to allow beef imports from Paraguay. 

Kent Bacus, executive director of government affairs, says NCBA has repeatedly raised concerns over the country’s history of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).  “We laid out some really, really strong claims backed by science, backed by USDA’s own studies, to call into question the safety of Paraguay’s imports,” he says. 

He says USDA based its ruling on outdated in-country visits.  “USDA also didn’t take into consideration the fact that roughly 85% of the foot and mouth disease mitigation measures that Paraguay is supposed to use are funded from the private sector,” he says.  “Those are funded from cattle sales and a lot of other things outside of the government.”  The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says it conducted a risk analysis and decided fresh beef can be imported safely from Paraguay under certain conditions.

Bacus tells Brownfield NCBA feels like USDA just kind of went through the motions on this.  “And we’re going to continue to oppose this. We’re going to talk about where we think they got it wrong and why they should review it,” he says. 

He says the industry is vigilant in its efforts to keep foreign animal diseases out of the U.S.  “We know it’s a priority for USDA, but it has to be a priority all the time,” he says.  “We can’t choose to make exceptions when it’s politically convenient, or it helps us move the needle for certain other commodities. We have to be objective. We have to hold everyone to a high standard.”

The rule was published in the Federal Register today and will be open for public comment for 60 days. 

The conditions include verifying that:

  • Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has not been diagnosed in the exporting region in the past 12 months,
  • The meat comes from premises where FMD has not been present during the lifetime of any of the animals, and
  • The animals were inspected before and after death, among others.

The parameters are consistent with the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.

AUDIO: Kent Bacus, NCBA

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