APHIS proposes allowing Argentine beef

Compiled by Tri-State Livestock News

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is announcing a proposal to amend the regulations to allow the importation of fresh (chilled or frozen) beef from northern Argentina, a region located north of Patagonia South and Patagonia North B.

An APHIS risk assessment, conducted at the request of the government of Argentina, indicates that fresh (chilled or frozen) beef can be safely imported, provided certain conditions are met to ensure beef exported to the United States will not harbor the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). The assessment concluded that Argentina is able to comply with the U.S. import restrictions.

The comprehensive assessment, that included five site visits to Argentina to assess the country’s adequacy to effectively contain, eradicate and report an FMD outbreak, consisted of an in-depth evaluation of the 11 risk factors identified by APHIS as factors in assessing the risk of the relevant animal disease posed by a region. Two of the factors considered when assessing risk factors include the region’s disease status and vaccination status.

APHIS does not recognize countries or regions that continue to vaccinate against FMD as free of the disease. This is the situation in northern Argentina where they continue to vaccinate in the region. Therefore, APHIS cannot recognize this region as free of FMD. However, APHIS can evaluate the risk presented by fresh/frozen beef products imported under specific conditions. The proposed rule to allow fresh/frozen beef from northern Argentina is based on this type of analysis.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bob McCan, cattleman from Victoria, Texas, issued the following statement about the proposal:

“NCBA is deeply concerned by today’s announcement by USDA APHIS to add the Patagonia areas of Argentina to the list of regions considered free of Foot-and-Mouth disease and to subsequently allow the importation of live cattle and fresh or frozen beef into the United States from this region. Our extreme concern is only further magnified by the associated proposed rule to allow chilled or frozen beef to be imported from the region of Northern Argentina. Northern Argentina is a region that is not recognized as being free of Foot-and-Mouth Disease by APHIS.

“FMD is considered 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 as jeopardize our national food security.

“APHIS conducted their risk analysis based on a series of site visits to Argentina to determine the FMD risk status of these regions. NCBA’s repeated requests for written reports for these APHIS site visits to Argentina have gone unanswered. Finally, we were informed by APHIS that written reports are not required for APHIS site reviews. 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. Valid science-based decisions are not possible in this flawed system.

“It is evident that APHIS has charged blindly forward in making this announcement, ignoring the findings of a third-party scientific review identifying major weaknesses in the methodology of the risk analysis that formed the foundation for the APHIS decision-making process. The third-party scientific review uncovered deficiencies in the APHIS hazard analysis and the exposure assessment, as well as an overly subjective qualitative format for the risk analysis.

“NCBA remains committed to supporting open trade markets, level playing fields, and utilizing science-based standards to facilitate international trade. At the same time, no amount of trade is worth sacrificing the health and safety of the United States cattle herd. Strict transparency for the adherence to sound science must be the basis for all animal health decisions of this magnitude.”

Unites States Cattlemen’s Association Executive Director Jess Peterson weighs in:

“Argentina has a long history of undercutting the United States in trade and business deals. The import process referenced in the proposed rule on this matter and would allow for meat to be exported is a very finite and laborious procedure. Any slight error made by those in the exporting country within the confines of this process would result in a substantial chance of FMD entering the U.S. The risk is too great. Argentina must first remedy its previous actions as a trading partner before it is ever considered for a special trade category as is proposed. The modern U.S. cattle industry has never had to deal with FMD. USCA remains committed to making sure it stays that way

Once published in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule and accompanying economic analysis and risk analysis.