National Cattlemen’s Beef Association demands halt on Brazilian beef imports into the U.S.
The March 10 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) Beltway Beef podcast welcomed NCBA Executive Director of Government Affairs Kent Bacus to discuss Brazil’s history of failing to report cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as mad cow disease.
Due to Brazil’s lack of transparency, NCBA is calling for a suspension of Brazilian beef imports until it is determined Brazil meets the U.S.’s high animal health standards.
During the podcast, Bacus also provides information on the importance of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and the value of collaborating to prevent the spread of foreign animal diseases.
Bacus notes atypical BSE doesn’t occur naturally, but has occurred in the U.S.
Classical BSE occurs in cattle after ingesting prion-contaminated feed, while atypical BSE is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the last atypical BSE case in the U.S. occurred in Florida in 2018.
“None of the infected animals ended up in the food supply, but as part of WOAH, we notified all of our trade partners within 24 hours of the incident occurring,” says Bacus.
He adds, “Atypical BSE is not a trade restrictive disease. It’s not like classical BSE where we really have to worry about ruminant feed ban violations, but it’s still a disease that needs to be reported.”
Reporting devastating diseases, like BSE, allows countries to take action and defend their supply chains. According to NCBA, delayed reporting has put U.S. beef at risk.
On Jan. 18, a case was identified in Brazil, but was not confirmed until Feb. 22. Because of a repeated pattern of delayed reporting, NCBA sent a letter to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) demanding immediate action.
“We have seen Brazil repeatedly fail to meet the 24-hour requirement for reporting of animal diseases listed by WOAH. In order to protect the safety and security of the U.S. herd and American cattle producers, we demand USDA take immediate steps to block further beef imports from Brazil,” says NCBA President and South Dakota Cattleman Todd Wilkinson in a Feb. 28 NCBA press release.
“Furthermore, we expect USDA to keep the border closed to Brazil until they can demonstrate they are willing and able to play by the trade rules governing all other nations. If they can’t play by the rules, they don’t deserve access. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack needs to act now, rather than kicking the can down the road,” he continues.
According to USDA, last year Brazilian beef and veal imports accounted for 466.371 pounds, a significant increase from 2021 when import levels were reported at 368.956 pounds.
“We’ve been very consistent in our request with USDA to suspend their access until a thorough investigation and audit can be conducted,” shares Bacus. “This latest atypical BSE case took Brazil 35 days to report, whereas it would take the U.S. 24 hours.”
Bacus says in one instance, it took Brazil nearly two years to report a case of BSE. This why he says access to the U.S. beef market is a privilege, not a right.
“They don’t have a right to the U.S. market, it’s a privilege, and if they’re not going to provide an equivalent level of safety in health and be able to back it up through their reputation, then they don’t deserve to be here,” he says.
WOAH is an international, science-based institution, focused on combating foreign animal disease and other animal health issues as they arise, mentions Bacus.
“The U.S. has some of the highest standards in the world when it comes to animal health and food safety,” he says. “If producers don’t have a healthy animal, they won’t have a product.”
He notes the U.S. has always prioritized food safety and animal health and has always focused on strong science-based standards.
According to Bacus, NCBA is going to continue to advocate for the beef industry in the U.S. and raise concerns with Brazil’s reporting timelines in regards to BSE cases and safety concerns when it comes to animal disease.
“We believe in size-based trade, but we also believe in accountability, and this is one thing we really have to be consistent on,” he concludes. “If someone’s going to do business here, they better live up to our standards and take all of the same precautions we do.”
“For too long, American cattlemen and women have honored the laws governing international trade, promoting fair and equitable standards, only to have nations like Brazil ignore those same standards. Brazil cannot be allowed to benefit from the investments we have made to build a massive demand for beef around the globe,” Wilkinson concludes in the February press release.
“If trade partners like Brazil fail to follow the rules, there must be consequences, and they must be painful and immediate,” he adds.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.