Friday, June 23, 2017

Beef with Brazil

Unless you are a Farm Side reader you probably didn't know how many times I have written about the USDA's folly in opening the USA to imports of fresh beef from Brazil. There have been a good many columns on the subject, including one last week.

Brazil is an endemic Foot and Mouth Disease country. America had its last case during the 1920s, reportedly at a farm across the river from us, the house upon which was built by the same people as constructed this one, and looked almost like our house as well. They were like twins to the north and south of the river...except that the cows there died and were burned and buried on that farm.....

The house burned too a few years ago and little is left except a sharp curve in the road and even sharper memories in a few minds here and there.

Foot and Mouth Disease is literally more contagious than the common cold. It can be spread great distances on water, air, by animals passing from farm to farm, and by products such as beef. Even laboratories studying the disease have been blamed for letting it loose on innocent animals. It is commonly recommended that farmers who visit countries where the disease is endemic quarantine themselves from their own livestock for a period after they return.  (How I wish I had my old computer with all the links to a couple of decades of research stories...the stuff is getting hard to find now, most links return 404 not found messages.....)

Great Britain has seen some horrific outbreaks in recent years, which devastated that nation's farm economy and resulted in the culling of 10 MILLION hoofed stock.

Imagine what an outbreak would do in this country. The cost of quarantines. The death of millions upon millions of cows, sheep, goats etc. With our wild population of hoofed animals, consider the cost and death toll of controlling an outbreak that affected them. We stink at getting rid of feral hogs. What if they got Foot and Mouth?

There are many columns worth of reasons why the change in our import rules was a lousy idea. Rampant corruption in Brazil. Adulterated meat. A lack of reciprocity in import/export balance....we would take in millions of bucks worth of their beef, while they bought almost none of ours. Even claims of slavery

However, the potential for Foot and Mouth disease is enough all on its own to make the opening of trade to fresh beef a fool's errand. One big mistake just waiting for disaster to happen. And it almost did.

Late yesterday evening the USDA abruptly halted the program and closed our borders to Brazilian beef. "A statement from the Brazilian Association of Beef Industry Exports says the self-suspension happened "after the detection of [bovine] reactions to the vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease, that in some cases can provoke internal, and not externally visible abscesses."...from Drovers Magazine.

I applaud the USDA for taking action in light of the number of code infractions found in meat from Brazil by FSIS inspections. However, it shouldn't have been a problem in the first place and I fear the suspension won't last long. Or at least not long enough.


Jacqueline Donnelly said...

I certainly understand your concern. And I'm afraid things are only going to get worse, as regulations designed to protect our (and our animals') health and safety are being dismantled every day at the altar of higher profits.

Linda said...

A very thought provoking article. Well written. I hope many people read this. As for fresh beef from Brazil...thank heavens they took swift action.

threecollie said...

Jacqueline, this really needed to happen. It was utterly nuts on so many fronts to accept fresh beef from an fmd country. Now if only they don't reopen.

Linda, thanks, I have had a lot of discussions on FB with people who are truly interested but simply are not aware of the background on this. I write about it but I am only one voice. You can read plenty in farm publications, but they don't cross over to the general public. I don't know how to change that alas.