Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is calling on the USDA to keep fresh-cut beef from Brazil out of the United States and away from livestock producers.
In response to a USDA proposal that could lead to the importation of fresh-cut Brazilian beef, Tester last week told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the current restrictions on Brazilian beef are in place for good reason – to protect U.S. cattle from foot-and-mouth disease and American ranchers from losing valuable livestock.
"Foot-and-mouth Disease is one of the most contagious and destructive livestock diseases in existence," Tester said. "American beef is high quality and held to the highest standard of food safety. Consumers around the world seek out U.S.-raised and processed beef and livestock genetics, because they know that American ranchers raises their herds to high standards and a strong record of preventing livestock disease."
"I strongly believe that both U.S. consumers and ranchers are best served by keeping Brazilian beef out of our country," he added.
Brazil has not yet eradicated foot-and-mouth disease, and Tester says it is "questionable" whether the country has strong enough livestock disease and food safety standards to keep foot-and-mouth from entering the U.S.
He points out that on three occasions in 2010, the FDA recalled Brazilian cooked and canned meat – which is allowed to be imported – due to drug contamination. He said the recall included well-known brands like Libby, Hormel and Kroger.
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, however, says that based on a risk assessment and series of site visits, Brazil has the veterinary infrastructure in place to detect and effectively eradicate a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak if necessary.
Tester also recently urged USDA to extend the comment period on its proposal that would allow the importation of fresh-cut Brazilian beef. The extension would give consumers and ranchers more time to make their thoughts known, he says. The public is allowed to submit comments until Feb. 21.
Hailing from Montana, Tester noted that the livestock industry there has 2.6 million head of cattle alone, and contributes more than one billion dollars to the state's economy each year.