March 7, 2008
March 7, 2008 -- Eight senators corresponded with Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer regarding their concern over the proposal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to regionalize trade with Argentina for the importation of ruminants and ruminant products. Under the USDA proposal, meat products could flow from designated regions in Argentina that are deemed to be free of foot and mouth disease (FMD).
Implementation of this plan is a concern to the Senators in that there remains a question about the effectiveness of animal disease controls and tracking in Argentina. Weaknesses in this system could have serious effects on the American livestock industry.
FMD continues to be found in cattle in Argentina and the risk of transmission to the U.S. herd poses an unacceptable risk to U.S. producers. With the ability for FMD to be spread by air, USDA is unable to ensure that it will not enter FMD-free regions of Argentina and beyond.
In conclusion, the Senators asked that USDA carefully analyze the full economic cost of this proposal including the risk of an FMD outbreak in America and the impact on prices paid to domestic producers from increased Argentinean imports.
Signators to the letter led by Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) included Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Pete Domenici (N.M.).
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) commends the efforts of the Senators and supports their position. ASI and a number of state sheep associations formally objected to the early 2007 proposal due to the absolute failure to accurately conduct the economic impact analysis.