Agriculture Department officials on Monday said they had relaxed a ban on imports of Brazilian beef, adding pressure on U.S. ranchers already contending with a slump in cattle prices to five-year lows.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and officials from Brazil agreed to drop bans in place for years following outbreaks of deadly cattle-borne diseases, allowing two-way trade in beef to resume between two ranching-intensive nations.
“We are pleased that Brazil, a major agricultural producing and trading country, has aligned with science-based international standards,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, adding that Brazil was the 16th country in the past year to drop such bans on U.S. product.
Brazil had put the ban in place in part over concerns about the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease, after a cow with the disease was found in the U.S. state of Washington in 2003. Foot-and-mouth disease discovered in Brazil’s herds also triggered a ban by the U.S. and other countries. Now, the USDA said, Brazil has improved the regulation of its beef processing industry to match U.S. standards.
Some public health groups said Monday they still had concerns about Brazil’s level of food-safety monitoring.
“There are questions about whether [Brazil’s] regulatory system is going to be able to meet the challenge of making sure their product is safe,” said Tony Corbo, a lobbyist at Food and Water Watch in Washington, D.C.
Some ranchers also protested the dropped trading ban, which could further pressure domestic cattle ranchers struggling against a 15% drop in the price of cattle this year.
The World Animal Health Organization considers the risk of the diseases in both countries “negligible.”
“We cannot afford to jeopardize our nation’s livestock herds, which are the foundation of our global food supply, before all the possible risks to animal health and food safety have been properly addressed,” said Tracy Brunner, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
By Kelsey Gee
Source: Wall Street Journal
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