USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said this week it will amend its regulations and allow import of fresh chilled or frozen beef from Northern Argentina and 14 states in Brazil.
APHIS said the imports will be under strict control to mitigate the risk of foot-and-mouth disease.
The regions include the Patagonia region in Northern Argentina and the Brazilian states of Bahia, Distrito Federal, Espirito Santo, Goias, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Parana, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Rondonia, Sao Paulo, Sergipe, and Tocantis.
APHIS risk assessments concluded 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 FMD virus.
The assessments also concluded that Argentina and Brazil are able to comply with U.S. import certification requirements, APHIS said.
Fresh beef from both of these regions will follow the same import conditions imposed on fresh beef and ovine meat from Uruguay that we have been safely importing for many years.
APHIS' regulations and conditions address potential animal health risks. This is the first step of a process for these regions to gain access to the U.S. market for beef. Brazil and Argentina also need to meet food safety standards prior to being able to export any beef to the United States. USDA will assess their equivalence with U.S. standards through a review of their regulatory programs as well as an in-country audit of their food safety systems.
The rules will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, APHIS said.
What cattle groups say >>
Decision demonstrates 'arrogance,' NCBA says
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said Monday that they opposed the decision not on the basis of trade, but on concerns of animal health.
"The arrogance of this administration in continuing to press forward with rules that have a profound impact on industry, without consulting those affected, is appalling," said NCBA President Philip Ellis.
"FMD is a highly contagious and devastating disease, not just for the cattle industry, but for all cloven-hoofed animals and it can be introduced and spread through the importation of both fresh and frozen products," he said.
The U.S. Cattlemen's Association also opposes the rule. "Any opening of the U.S. market to the stated regions in South America is a step back for the health of the U.S. cattle herd," said USCA President Danni Beer. "Moreover, innumerable losses would occur through the closure of export markets, lost domestic sales, lost opportunities, and a loss of consumer confidence in beef."
Ellis said in 1929, the beef industry took "profound and personally devastating" steps to eradicate FMD, but the new regulations threaten that status.
According to NCBA, the areas surrounding the regions in question have a history of FMD outbreaks, and the Administration did not conduct an objective quantitative risk analysis on the new rule.
"The haste and sloppy nature of this rulemaking points clearly to the Administration's political agenda in forcing this rule forward, literally in spite of the science," Ellis said.
NCBA estimates that if an FMD outbreak were to occur in the U.S., total economic losses could range from $37 billion to $228 billion.
"Moreover, innumerable losses would occur through the closure of export markets, lost domestic sales, lost opportunities, and a loss of consumer confidence in beef," NCBA said.