Concerns discussed over imports from areas with cattle disease

Brazil, Argentina | Argentina vaccinates against foot and mouth disease

TORONTO — U.S. beef producers are nervous about approving imports of live cattle and fresh beef from certain regions of Argentina because of the threat of foot-and-mouth disease entering North America. 


Canada knows this is a hot button topic but prefers to trust the scientific evidence. 


“We want trade based on science, so if the science suggests it is safe to do so, we want to make sure it is not political science. It has to be clear it is not a threat to our industry,” said Dave Solverson, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.


The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association wants Canada’s support against the possibility of Argentine cattle and fresh product coming north. 


“We said we would support it, but not on a protectionist basis. It had to be science based,” Solverson said.


Only certain regions of countries in South America are considered acceptable to trade under a process known as regionalization. 


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“We would want our country re-gionalized. If we had an outbreak, we would like to regionalize the country,” Solverson said. 


Under regionalization, Western Canada would still be able to trade if a disease outbreak occurred in Eastern Canada. 


Members of the NCBA are also concerned that 14 states in Brazil are up for approval for the export of frozen and chilled products. Foot-and-mouth has also been a problem in that country in the past. 


The question is on the agenda during the Five Nations Beef Alliance annual meeting in Texas in mid-October. The alliance represents Canada, New Zealand, United States, Australia and Mexico. 


Observers from South America are invited to the meeting.


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The issue came to a head when the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published rules in the federal register earlier this year to allow product from northern Argentina and the Patagonia areas. 


APHIS said on its website it does not recognize countries or regions that continue to vaccinate against foot-and-mouth as free of the disease. 


This is the situation in northern Argentina, where vaccination against foot-and-mouth exists following outbreaks in 2003 and 2006. 


Therefore, the rule suggests beef could be imported only under specific conditions. It also states the overall risk of foot-and-mouth entering the country through these im-ports is low. 


The comment period is open until Oct. 28 and can be found at www.regulations.gov by typing into the search screen APHIS-2014-0032-0001.

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