Press Release of Senator Johnson

Johnson Provision to Prevent Transmission of Foot and Mouth Disease Advances in Committee

Contact: Julianne Fisher, 202-224-1638 
Thursday, July 17, 2008

Washington, DC-U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) announced today that language he authored to prevent the importation of questionable livestock from Argentina has passed the Appropriations Committee. Johnson offered the amendment during consideration of the 2009 Agriculture Appropriations bill based on his bill, The Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Prevention Act of 2008. The amendment would prevent the USDA from spending any money to implement the plan in Fiscal Year 2009 to open U.S. borders to import fresh meat and livestock from Argentina. "Today's action is a strong step forward for our agricultural community, which would be devastated by the extreme risk Foot and Mouth Disease presents to our livestock herds," said Johnson, a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. "The USDA's proposal is shortsighted, and I remain committed to ensuring that no dangerous products from Argentina cross our borders." 

The USDA recently announced plans to allow cattle, sheep and swine and certain livestock product imports from a region within Argentina. Although the region itself is believed to be free of the disease, FMD is found in the surrounding regions and countries. The potential risk of airborne transmission and contamination remains high. 

Johnson and U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) developed The Foot and Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2008 following the repeated concerns of their constituents worried about the risks of the proposal. Since its introduction on July 10, the legislation has an additional 11 cosponsors from both sides of the political aisle. 

The legislation also has the strong support of organizations across the state and nation, including the American Sheep Industry Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, R-CALF, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, the Western Organization of Resource Councils, Dakota Rural Action, the South Dakota Farmers Union, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the National Farmers Union. 

The majority of veterinarians within the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials (NASAHO) also oppose the USDA's plan, including Dr. Sam Holland, South Dakota State Veterinarian and NASAHO President. 

"I am pleased that the Appropriations Committee has approved this provision and I hope that the Senate will consider the Ag Appropriations bill sooner rather than later. The United States has been free of Foot and Mouth Disease since 1929, and we should demand the same from our trade partners," continued Johnson. 

FMD affects ruminants and swine, and is considered to be the most economically devastating of all livestock diseases. According to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the economic impacts of the disease in the United States could cost the economy billions of dollars.