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Producers urged to look at preparation strategies for potential foreign animal diseases

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Published on March 21, 2020

During the March 9 episode of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) Beefwatch podcast, UNL Agricultural Economist Dr. Elliot Dennis discussed the potential implications of the introduction of foreign animal diseases, such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) into the U.S. and preventative management practices producers can utilize to be prepared if something ever were to happen. 

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement

When it comes to trade, Dennis explains the World Trade Organization (WTO) has regulations known as the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement, which allows countries to halt imports from other countries if they feel it will cause adverse reactions to their ag system. 

            He goes on to note FMD is an example of this.

            “If FMD were to come into the U.S., we would be classified as an FMD endemic country, and we would only be allowed to export beef to other countries deemed FMD endemic,” explains Dennis. “We wouldn’t be able to export into FMD-free countries.”

            “If this happened, we would lose out on places like Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Canada, which are some of our major export locations,” continues Dennis. “Furthermore, those are the places that pay us premiums for our grain-fed beef.” 

            Dennis points out when countries put up simultaneous-buy-sell (SBS) barriers, it can take a very long period of time before they take them off. 

            He notes an example of this is the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak in the U.S. in 2003. 

            “The U.S. BSE outbreak happened over 16 years ago, and in January of this year, China finally agreed to lift their age restrictions on beef imports,” says Dennis. “In terms of total beef export value, the U.S. dropped $4 billion right after the BSE outbreak and we didn’t recover those pre-2003 trade values until 2010.”


            “When an event like this takes place, it can drastically change the market, especially for a country like the U.S. because we are in the business of exporting a lot of high-quality beef,” Dennis states. “However, there are a few things in place to help mitigate this situation, where if a cow was found with a disease like FMD in California, it wouldn’t shut off trade for the whole U.S.” 

            Dennis goes on to explain there is a clause in the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement known as regionalization.

            According to Dennis, regionalization means there can be regions in an FMD endemic country that are classified as FMD free. 

            “This is not something that is just in principle,” states Dennis. “This is actually something the U.S. actively uses today.” 

            In fact, Dennis notes two different examples of regionalization in U.S. trade. 

            “One example of this is beef imports from Brazil,” says Dennis. “Although Brazil itself is classified as FMD endemic, Santa Catarina is a region in Brazil that has been deemed FMD free, so they can ship fresh, chilled and frozen beef to the U.S.” 

            The second example Dennis notes occurs in the pork industry.

            “Poland has active outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) occurring right now, but there are regions in Poland that aren’t affected. Therefore, we still allow some pork from Poland to come to the U.S.,” he says. 

Preventative management practices

            When it comes to ranch management practices, producers might partake in to prevent foreign disease outbreaks or to prepare themselves for an outbreak, Dennis says it is important to ensure what they are doing will keep them economically viable and sustainable moving forward. 

            “We need to make sure we aren’t overextending ourselves, paying down debt and making good purchase decisions,” Dennis says. “These are all things we can do proactively on a day-to-day basis.” 

            “Another thing we can do, if we want to be able to leverage the principle of regionalization if FMD were to ever come to the U.S., is to look into ways we can trace and monitor the cattle that come in and off of our operations,” he adds. 

            Dennis continues, “Traceability and secure beef supply plans are things we can do as ranchers to be proactive and ensure we are able to move cattle and make a profit if a foreign disease like FMD were to ever come into the U.S.”

            Dennis recommends producers discuss traceability and a secure beef supply plan with their veterinarians or Extension specialists so they are prepared for any potential introductions of economically damaging foreign animal diseases. Hannah Bugas is the assistant editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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