Billings, Mont. – As we’ve all been told by our mothers, and as any veterinarian will tell you, prevention is the best of all medicines. As cattle producers, we spend billions to prevent diseases from infecting our livestock through vaccination programs and good husbandry practices. Collectively, our livestock industry spent billions more in eradicating diseases from within our border for the same reason – to prevent diseases from infecting U.S. livestock.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was once our partner in disease prevention. For decades the U.S. livestock industry worked shoulder-to-shoulder with USDA to eradicate and control such diseases as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), brucellosis, bovine tuberculosis (TB) and many others. And, USDA did a superb job of preventing disease from being reintroduced through our borders by imposing strict restrictions on imports of livestock and livestock products that could cause disease introduction.
Whatever happened to those good ol’ days?
In recent years, USDA has knowingly allowed the continued reintroduction of bovine TB by not adequately restricting imports of Mexican cattle that originate in areas with high rates of the disease. USDA has lifted its restrictions on the importation of older Canadian cattle even though its own risk evaluation predicts that we will introduce bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) into the U.S. as a result. USDA has twice attempted to lift FMD restrictions for certain states within countries with long histories of FMD outbreaks. The agency attempted to do this through a process advocated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and known as “regionalization.” Fortunately for domestic livestock producers, reports of FMD outbreaks in those countries forced USDA to withdraw its regionalization plans and our FMD import restrictions were restored in time to prevent FMD from entering our country.
As recently as Dec. 28, 2009, USDA published a final rule declare South Korea free of FMD with an effective date of Jan. 11, 2010. But, on Jan. 6, 2010, South Korea began reporting new outbreaks of FMD, and USDA was again forced to back off. Despite these recent and notable failures associated with USDA’s efforts to regionalize countries with long histories of FMD outbreaks and to lift FMD import restrictions, USDA remains undeterred. It is bound and determined to allow products with a high risk for FMD into the United States.
Earlier this month, USDA announced its plans to regionalize the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. Within the past five years, Brazil experienced outbreaks of FMD in a state that directly borders Santa Catarina and in a state in close proximity to Santa Catarina, which resulted in the depopulation of over 26,000 head of Brazilian cattle.
Over the past several years USDA has defied and ignored its congressional responsibility to prevent the introduction of animal diseases. Instead, USDA appears to be marching to the orders of a higher authority – the WTO – that is repulsed by the United States’ exemplary record of disease prevention and wants to lower the United States down to a standard consistent with the rest of the world. This should be the new definition of insanity.
This is wrong.
And, unless we cattle producers stand up to reverse USDA’s present course, disease prevention – our best and most effective means of protecting the health of our domestic livestock – will be but a memory for us to share with our grandkids.
I’m willing to do something about this. Are you?
Source: R-CALF USA
Posted by Haylie Shipp