Monday, Reps. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.) and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to keep America's food supply safe while protecting the country's livestock industry from the devastating effects an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) would bring.
Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering a plan to open the U.S. protein market to select regions of Argentina, despite the fact that USDA has not conducted an updated safety assessment in Argentina since a 2006 outbreak of FMD.
The Foot and Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2009 prohibits the importation of Argentine ruminants and swine or any fresh, chilled or frozen meat or product of any ruminant or swine born, raised or slaughtered in Argentina until the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture certifies to Congress that every region of Argentina is free of FMD without vaccination.
The United States has been free of FMD since 1929 and is free of FMD without vaccination. According to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, however, the economic impacts of FMD in the U.S. could cost the economy billions of dollars in the first year. A 2001 outbreak in England led to the destruction of 6 million animals and cost the economy nearly $20 billion.
In January, Sens. Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) introduced an identical bill in the Senate. A variety of industry groups support this action including the American Sheep Industry Association and the Wyoming Wool Growers Association and Wyoming Stock Growers Association.