Limiting beef imports to the U.S.

Limiting beef imports to the U.S.
Dec 15, 2023

Multiple ag leaders want imports of Paraguayan beef suspended

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Ag leaders from multiple states are calling on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the USDA to suspend beef imports from a South American country.

Directors and secretaries of agriculture from eight states including Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio and Missouri are asking the USDA to halt its implementation of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) final rule, Importation of Fresh Beef From Paraguay.

“We urge USDA to consider pausing the implementation of this rule until a more reliable risk assessment can be completed based on modern visits in Paraguay,” a Dec. 13 letter addressed to Secretary Vilsack says.

APHIS published its final rule in November, stating that “fresh beef can safely be imported from Paraguay, provided certain conditions are met.”

These conditions include ensuring the meat comes from an animal processed in an exporting region, that Food and Mouth Disease (FMD) hasn’t been seen in the exporting region for 12 months, and the meat comes from animals that moved only from the originating farm to the processing location without any additional contact with animals.

But the U.S. officials want more assurances that Paraguayan beef is safe.

The last reported outbreaks of FMD in Paraguay occurred in 2011 and 2012.

And U.S. officials haven’t inspected visits to Paraguay since 2014 and therefore USDA is using outdated information to justify its decision, the ag officials say.

Allowing Paraguayan beef into the U.S. without an updated risk assessment creates potential challenges for the U.S.

“A FMD outbreak in the U.S. would severely impact our nation’s economy and the people behind the product: American farmers and ranchers and the businesses that bring beef from pasture to plate,” the letter says.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supports pausing imports of Paraguayan beef.

USDA needs to do more to protect the U.S. beef sector from any potential risks.

“The dismissal of legitimate concerns from U.S. cattle producers is unacceptable and USDA should halt this unscientific, unsafe rulemaking,” the organization said in November following APHIS making its ruling public.

Paraguay ranks 97th among U.S. ag export markets.

In 2022, the U.S. exported $36.76 million of agriculture goods to the South American country.

The top U.S. ag items exported to Paraguay that year include beer, distilled spirits and baked goods.

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