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Agricultural News

R-CALF USA Urges USDA to Reject Japan's Foot-And-Mouth Free Status

Thu, 29 Sep 2011 11:33:03 CDT

R-CALF USA Urges USDA to Reject Japan's Foot-And-Mouth Free Status Farmers and ranchers are extremely aware of the dangers associated with foot-and-mouth disease when it comes to cattle. R-CALF USA released a statement on recent occurences with foot-and-mouth between the U.S. and Japan. The following is their press release on the incident.

"Within only months following Japan's 2010 outbreak of the most contagious disease known to cattle and other cloven-hoofed animals foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) which resulted in the destruction of 211,608 Japanese cattle and swine by the Japanese government and caused an economic loss of over $3.5 billion in U.S. dollars, Japan requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to designate Japan as a country free of FMD. Such a designation would allow Japan to immediately resume exports to the United States of whole cuts of boneless beef, products that could readily transmit the FMD virus to U.S. cattle and swine.

Transmission of the FMD virus via meat products is well documented. USDA states that 66 percent of the known sources of FMD outbreaks throughout the world were attributable to infected meat, meat products, or garbage.

Notwithstanding the known risk of FMD transmission through trade in meat products from countries affected by FMD, and oblivious to the horrendous financial cost to the U.S. livestock industry if FMD were to be introduced into the United States, USDA is nevertheless recommending the resumption of meat imports from Japan.

In an official report completed April 1, 2011, less than a year after Japan reported another case of FMD on July 4, 2010, USDA scientists conclude that Japan should be designated FMD free so the U.S. can resume imports of Japanese beef.

"USDA continues to bend over backwards to appease its world trade gods at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) and multinational meatpackers with absolutely no regard for the health and safety of the U.S. livestock herd," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard adding, "There isn't a scientist with an ounce of credibility that would conclude, as USDA scientists have done, that there is no risk to resuming trade with Japan."

USDA's official report indicates that is precisely the conclusion arrived at by USDA scientists who stated "there is no risk barrier to reinstating Japan to the list of regions considered free of FMD. . ."

In formal comments submitted to USDA on Monday, R-CALF USA stated that USDA's conclusion was "absurd and irresponsible" and urged USDA to reject Japan's request to be designated FMD free.

On behalf of its thousands of cattle-producing members, R-CALF USA further charged USDA with providing an incomplete and inadequate risk evaluation of the FMD status in Japan, failing to provide any scientific basis for recommending the resumption of Japanese exports within only months of Japan's latest FMD outbreak, providing overly optimistic and unsupported assumptions regarding Japan's ongoing risks for FMD outbreaks, and deceiving the public by falsely claiming that all FMD-exposed livestock in Japan have been depopulated.

"USDA has lost its credibility with our members. With this proposal and its other proposals to expose U.S. livestock to Brazil's ongoing FMD risk and Canada's mad cow disease risk, and to force U.S. livestock producers to manage diseases of foreign countries through a mandatory animal identification system, USDA demonstrates a complete disregard for the health and welfare of U.S. livestock. We couldn't be more disappointed but I'll bet USDA's meatpacker friends and international friends at the WTO and OIE are pleased as punch that the government of the world's largest beef producing nation is so naive that it is willing to assume the disease risks of the rest of the world," Bullard commented.

R-CALF USA was not alone in criticizing USDA's proposal and charging USDA with completing a deficient evaluation of Japan's FMD risk. According to the U.S. government website where public comments can be reviewed, only one other representative of the U.S. livestock industry submitted formal comments to USDA. The North Dakota State Board of Animal Health submitted comments stating it is inconceivable for USDA to support re-establishment of trade with Japan at this time.

The comments by the North Dakota State Board of Animal Health further state that USDA's evaluation of Japan's FMD risk "appears to be less about assessing the risk from Japan and more about setting precedent in allowing imports from other, more risky, nations or areas within nations, which have a lesser tolerance of disease introduction and lower food safety tolerances than does Japan. This appears to be yet another attempt at making the world a flatter place, not by bringing up the standards of other nations, but by bringing the standards of the United States down to the developing world standards."

"We couldn't agree more with the comments by officials from the North Dakota Board of Animal Health," said Bullard.

"USDA is flagrantly acting as nothing more than a cheerleading lap dog for international tribunals and multinational meatpackers and has abrogated its statutory duty to protect the interests of U.S. livestock producers and their livestock. We have no trust in this agency," Bullard concluded."

Click here to read comments or the official report from R-CALF USA.



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