R-Calf Concerned with FMD Outbreaks in Argentina, South KoreaMon, 15 Dec 2014 16:09:33 CST
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is perhaps the most contagious disease known to cloven-footed animals like cattle, hogs, sheep, deer and elk. Argentina and Brazil are countries where the FMD virus is known to exist. Nevertheless, United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has already relaxed import restrictions on livestock and meat from certain areas within Argentina and Brazil and now proposes to greatly expand the areas within those FMD-affected countries that would be eligible to export livestock and meat to the United States.
But that would be irresponsible and dangerous according to R-CALF USA, the largest producer-only national cattle trade association in the United States. R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard points to the recurring outbreaks of FMD in South Korea, a country that Vilsack recently insisted was free of FMD and that the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has repeatedly declared free of FMD.
After South Korea experienced outbreaks of FMD in 2000 and 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in October 2008, completed a risk evaluation that declared South Korea free of FMD. On December 28, 2009, Vilsack issued a final rule declaring South Korea free of FMD and eligible to export fresh beef to the United States beginning January 12, 2010.
However, on January 2, 2010, just days before the effective date of the Secretary's final rule, South Korea experienced an outbreak of FMD and the Secretary was forced to delay indefinitely the effective date of South Korea's FMD-free designation.
South Korea's horrific FMD outbreak lasted from January 2010 through April of 2011, and when the dust finally settled, South Korea had to destroy 324,922 hogs and 9,257 cattle.
Eager to "normalize" trade between South Korea and the rest of the world, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) declared South Korea free of FMD in May, 2014.
But, just two months later, on July 24, 2014, South Korea reported a new outbreak of FMD and on Sept. 11, 2014, it reported two others. The three new outbreaks occurred in three swine herds in two separate provinces and 1,320 swine had to be destroyed.
Then, on Dec. 3, 2014, South Korea reported its fourth FMD outbreak for the year, this time in another swine herd in a new province. So far South Korea has destroyed 574 swine in response to its latest outbreak.
The official explanation by the South Korean government for what caused South Korea's recurring outbreaks since 2010 is "unknown or inconclusive."
Bullard says that Vilsack's and the OIE's declarations that South Korea was free of FMD was based on politics and wishful thinking rather than science.
"The fact that outbreaks continue to occur in a country where both Vilsack and the OIE say they should not raises serious red flags," said Bullard.
"When you further consider that South Korea cannot identify the cause of its recurring outbreaks after having destroyed hundreds of thousands of livestock, it becomes clear that Secretary Vilsack is endangering the health and safety of the U.S. cattle herd by systematically relaxing our longstanding FMD import restrictions for Argentina and Brazil," Bullard concluded.
Secretary Vilsack is currently accepting public comments on his latest proposal to allow the importation of fresh meat from FMD-affected Northern Argentina. Comments must be submitted on or before December 29, 2014 in order to be considered by USDA.
R-CALF USA urges everyone concerned with the health and safety of U.S. livestock and U.S. wildlife to submit written comments regarding Vilsack's proposal using either of the following methods:
To submit a comment through the Federal Register, click here. Comments can also be mailed. Send your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2014-0032, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
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