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Agriculture Today

BSE cause for concern when addressing trade issues

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Wilson County News
May 2, 2012 | 4,546 views | Post a comment

As more information surrounding the April 24 bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case detected in California becomes known, U.S. officials are concerned about the effects it may have on trade.

Ironically, this BSE case comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is receiving comments for a proposed comprehensive rule. Notice was posted in the March 16 Federal Register; the deadline for comments is Tuesday, May 15.

According to a March 2012 USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services factsheet, “the proposed rule would bring our BSE import regulations in line with international animal health standards that call for countries to base their trade policies on the actual risk of animals or products harboring the disease. It is based on internationally accepted scientific literature that is consistent with World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines.” The proposed rules are for cattle and cattle products with regard to BSE.

This action followed a Feb. 13 letter to Jeffrey Zients, acting director for the Office of Management and Budget, and Dr. Gregory Parham, administrator of the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, from 31 U.S. senators, including John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, both from Texas. The senators asked for establishment of a BSE plan that has been discussed since 2004, “to make science-based decisions regarding U.S. beef.”

In the letter, the senators recognized a trade problem between Mexico and the United States.

Although the World Organization for Animal Health classified both countries as “controlled risk countries” -- both have “effective BSE risk mitigation measures in place” -- Mexico continues not to allow the importation of U.S. cattle that are more than 30 months of age. With this restriction, the estimated U.S. beef industry is losing $100 million annually.

The senators stated that two levels of opportunity are lost with Mexico. “First, it unduly restricts U.S. beef exports and results in ongoing financial losses for U.S. beef producers. Beyond its immediate commercial impact, Mexico’s treatment of U.S. beef also has implications on our ability to negotiate beef market access agreements with other nations.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) echoes the senators’ comments in a March 9 press release.

“Non-tariff trade barriers hinder our ability to expand U.S. beef exports with many of our global trading partners,” said NCBA Associate Director of Legislative Affairs Kent Bacus. “Cattlemen need our trade negotiators to eliminate these barriers by requiring our global trading partners to make science-based decisions regarding U.S. beef. Along those lines, it is also important for the U.S. government to take all necessary steps to properly address risk related to BSE by adopting this proposed comprehensive rule.”

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