U.S. Sens. Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) this week introduced legislation to prevent the importation of livestock from Argentina until the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can certify that Argentina is free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
The Foot and Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2009 was crafted after hearing from concerned farmers and ranchers about the safety of their livestock. The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) actively supported the similar bill that was introduced in 2008 and commends the Senators for again showing the initiative to keep the U.S. flocks and herds safe from disease.
In response to their similar legislation last year, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Chief Veterinarian John Clifford, DVM, discussed his intention last fall to stop the proposal from moving forward until there was a USDA review conducted of the 2005 risk assessment on Argentina.
"ASI is a lead proponent of the legislation again this year," commented Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. "From the beginning, the sheep industry has opposed the change in regulations to allow imports from Argentina and insists that the inaccuracies in the risk assessments be addressed."
In 2007, the USDA 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 with vaccination, FMD is found in the surrounding regions and countries. The potential risk of contamination remains high due to causes such as airborne transmission and trans-shipment of animals.
The ASI board approved updated regionalization policy this winter supporting appropriate regionalization and, due to the situation in Argentina, the policy also supports the Senate bill.