Billings, Mont. – Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack rushed to finalize two proposed rules that would increase imports of fresh beef from 14 states in Brazil and from Northern Argentina. Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), one of the most contagious diseases known to infect cattle, is endemic in northern Brazil and the Secretary admits in his proposal for Argentina that the active FMD virus appears to be present in niches or patches in the country. The two rules will go into effect in 60 days.
Vilsack stated in both proposed rules that he expected the increased imports of fresh beef associated with the two rules to reduce producer welfare, lower U.S. beef prices, and lower U.S. beef production. He did not provide any other reason for his decision to relax longstanding FMD restrictions from the two countries.
R-CALF USA met with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on June 12 and informed the White House that it believed Vilsack was in violation of at least three of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA's) authorizing statutes by proposing the two rules that had no other purpose than to cause harm to rural American ranchers.
According to R-CALF USA, Congress established USDA's purpose to be that of building the economic health of rural areas, improving the quality of life of people living in rural and nonmetropolitan regions of the nation, and of fostering a family farm system of agriculture.
“Finalizing rules that the Secretary knows will lower U.S. cattle prices, lower U.S. beef production, and increase the risk of infecting the U.S. cow herd with FMD demonstrates the Secretary's blatant disregard for USDA's mission,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard adding:
“The effect of these rules will be to further erode the economic condition of Rural America and reduce economic opportunities for independent ranchers, which is exactly the opposite of what the Secretary should be doing.”
Bullard said his group also informed the OMB that that the recent Pedv outbreak that killed approximately 8 million pigs and the ongoing outbreaks of avian influenza that have so far caused the deaths of over 50 million chickens and turkeys are examples that demonstrate the USDA is ill-equipped to contain major disease outbreaks before they wipe out millions of animals.
Those examples were reinforced in May when the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report stating that the USDA does not even know how many veterinarians it would need for an emergency response to an animal disease outbreak, “such as a large-scale outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in livestock.”
“With these rules the Secretary is knowingly exposing the U.S. live cattle industry to an unnecessary and avoidable risk of FMD and he is doing so knowing full well that he is also undermining the statutory purpose of the USDA,” Bullard said.
“Consumers and livestock producers alike should be appalled by the Secretary's actions that are clearly designed to put the interests of multinational importers well ahead of the interests of Rural America,” he concluded.
Source: R-CALF USA
by Phil Denton