Risk Assessments for Beef

(Kristina) Kristina Butts here with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association based in Washington, D.C., and really excited to be in Kansas this week visiting with a lot of producers. Another topic that a lot of our producers are interested in and talking about and you’ve got a lot of champions from the Kansas delegation in Washington, is on two rules that became final the end of June. And this is out of USDA department known as APHIS, the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. And these two final rules are actually allowing the fresh and frozen beef importation from two countries-Argentina and Brazil. So, just to be on the record, NCBA and our membership are very much so pro-trade. But when you start looking at the history of a disease known as Foot and Mouth Disease in these two countries, we want to make sure that our country and our government is doing its due diligence to ensure that every safeguard is in place in those two respective countries to keep a virus like FMD out of the United States, because no amount of trade is worth jeopardizing our domestic herd health. And that’s a priority of NCBA and our membership. NCBA utilized membership dollars once again. We actually commissioned two third-party risk assessments for them to actually review the documents that USDA put forward that NCBA also reviewed. We were able to share a lot of that information in our comments, sharing concern with the agency about the process that they went through to deem those countries as safe. When you look at the history of it and you go back to 2002, USDA conducted a quantitative risk assessment, so a more thorough risk assessment, on the country Uruguay who’s also had a history with Foot and Mouth Disease to ensure that those safeguards are in place and that that trade is safe trade from an animal health standpoint. Unfortunately, when APHIS went through the risk assessments for both Brazil and Argentina it was a qualitative risk assessment. So, in our opinion not one that’s more thorough than a quantitative risk assessment. So, we’ve been asking the agency for several months to actually conduct a more thorough risk assessment, to go back to the countries, conduct some on-site visits and have written reports brought back forward to the industry to help us understand what those safeguards are and to ensure that they’re going to be in place to again protect the herd of our domestic beef herd here in the United States. So, we do have some language included in both the House and the Senate agriculture spending bills. That language is language that would actually not allow those final regulations to be implemented until a more thorough risk assessment is completed with additional on-site visits and those written reports back to Congress and a broader discussion about what this means. From a regulatory standpoint the next step in the process would be for those two respective countries now that APHIS, from an animal health standpoint, has deemed them as safe even though NCBA disagrees with the process that APHIS underwent. But now those counties would have to request equivalency. So the Food Safety Inspection Service under USDA will have to go down to those two countries and ensure that their are pathogen testing standards, as well as residue testing standards, are as thorough and as strong as the United States, or stronger before that trade would actually be implemented and we would see meat coming across the border. So, again we have a small window of time here, probably six months, maybe a little bit longer, when you start looking at the equivalent process and how that works through the system. So, NCBA is going to remain committed to this. Again, it’s about the process that our government went through to ensure that we are protecting the safety of our animal herd here in the United States. A disease like Food and Mouth Disease would really be devastating to our industry, not only our industry, but other food animal industries as well. So we need to make sure that the science is there, that it’s strongly supported by science and that the process is thorough that our government underwent. And right now we disagree with our government on the process that they underwent and we’re asking to really kind of take a step back before the actual beef comes into the United States and conduct a more thorough risk assessment and have additional on-site visits just to ensure those safeguards are strong and that they are in place.

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