March 21, 2008
March 21, 2008 - Four more Senators sent a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Jim Nassle, stressing 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.
The signators urged the department to not issue the final rule for southern Patagonia until the rule is reviewed by OMB. While OMB may view this particular rule as non-significant, it serves as precedent for future rules that would regionalize FMD status and deserves thorough examination.
The senators also requested that USDA provide a clear list of criteria and measures that all countries must meet in order for USDA to determine that a particular region can be deemed free of FMD.
Signing the letter were Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Ken Salazar (Colo.) and Jeff Bingaman (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. Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33