Breaking down barriers to US beef

by By Erica Shaffer
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United States, Brazil diplomacy
The United States and Brazil have reached an agreement that will improve opportunities for beef trade for both countries.
 

WASHINGTON – The US beef industry had mixed reactions to the news that the US Dept. of Agriculture and Brazil reached an agreement that will increase trade in beef and beef products.

For the first time since 2003, US beef and beef products will be allowed access to the Brazilian market. Brazil lifted restrictions on US beef related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy and recognized the US’s negligible risk status for BSE. Meanwhile, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of USDA ruled that Brazil’s food safety systems governing meat production remain equivalent to meat safety systems in the US. This means chilled or frozen fresh beef produced in Brazil, the world’s largest beef exporter, may be imported to the US.

“The Brazilian market offers great opportunity for US companies and it is a market the industry has been working to regain access to for years,” Barry Carpenter, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute. “We are also pleased that Brazil has recognized what the World Organization for Animal Health did: that US beef is as safe as any in the world with negligible risk for BSE.”

Tracy Brunner, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), said the decision to allow imports of chilled or frozen fresh beef is concerning because the Government Accountability Office continues to review the methodology used in the decision-making process. He said “USDA has failed to provide the detailed and documented science-based review of the risk evaluation protocols for determining an animal health status for countries; information requested by the US beef industry and Congress last year in order to alleviate serious animal health concerns.”

In July 2015, members of the US House Appropriations Committee agreed to block imports of fresh beef from Brazil and Argentina pending further study on the potential risk of foot-and-mouth disease taking hold in the US.

Some industry stakeholders flat out oppose the decision to allow imports of fresh beef from Brazil. Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA, said in a statement that the agreement will expose US consumers and the US cattle herd to “an unnecessary and avoidable risk of disease.”

“Brazil lacks the resources and infrastructure to maintain health and safety standards that are at least equal to that of the United States,” Bullard said. “That is why the USDA lowered the US standard to that of mere equivalency — which essentially means “close enough.”

The agreement enables both countries to begin updating administrative procedures in order to allow trade in beef to resume. US companies will need to complete Brazil’s regular facilities registration process, USDA said.

“The Brazilian market offers excellent long-term potential for US beef exporters,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “The United States looks forward to providing Brazil’s 200 million-plus consumers, and growing middle class, with high-quality American beef and beef products.”

The agreement calls for an initial quota of about 60,000 tonnes of Brazilian beef to ship to the US this year. NAMI noted that Brazilian beef will likely compete with other products from Central America under the US tariff rate quota system which limits the volume of beef without paying a 26.4 percent tariff. The Institute anticipates that Brazilian beef will primarily be used in ground and processed beef products.

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