Stockgrowers, Senators worried about lifting of Brazilian beef ban

WASHINGTON — Red flags in cattle country as the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to lift a ban on the importation of Brazilian beef.

The import of Brazilian beef was banned in 2017 because of health safety concerns.

Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds, along with 13 other senators, sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue expressing their concerns about lifting the ban.

“In 2017, USDA FSIS [Food Safety and Inspection Service] refused entry to approximately 2 million pounds of beef from Brazil and subsequently announced the suspension of all imports of fresh beef from Brazil due to public health concerns, poor sanitary conditions, and animal health issues,” they wrote. “Given that the United States halted Brazilin raw beef imports less than one year after Brazil was granted access in 2016, we have serious concerns about Brazil’s ability to maintain adequate food safety standards over the long run.”

They want to know how the USDA is going to ensure that beef from Brazil is safe to eat.

“[C]onsidering Brazil’s multiple failed attempts to uphold equivalent food safety standards, we believe a complete verification process of certified Brazilian facilities may be warranted,” wrote the senators.

Joining Thune and Rounds in signing the letter were seven of the eight senators from the four states that surround western South Dakota: Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven of North Dakota, Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Sen Jon Tester of Montana.

Earlier this week, South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson sent his own letter to the Department of Agriculture raising the same concerns.

“While we must honor trade agreements based on sound science, I feel compelled to question Brazil’s ability to maintain the food safety standards equivalent to USDA FSIS that ensure consumer confidence at the meat case,” wrote Johnson.

Specifically, he asked, “Does USDA FSIS plan to inspect 100% of Brazil’s beef imports? If so, for how long?” And, “If Brazil fails to uphold its commitments to maintain food safety, what mechanisms, if any, does USDA FSIS possess to quickly halt imports to ensure consumer safety in the U.S.?”

Separately, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association (SDSGA) say the continued ban on imports from Brazil is needed to ensure a safe food supply.

SDSGA Executive Director James Halverson said, “Senator Thune has… assured us he is working diligently to get to the bottom of why this ban was lifted. There is already much uncertainty in our markets and this was one more domino that should not have fallen.”

You can read the full letter here.

Categories: National News, Politics & Elections, South Dakota News