USCA Wants More from Vilsack to Brazil

August 10, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has urged his Brazilian counterpart to address timely disease reporting in Brazil in order to continue to access the U.S. beef market.

In his August 7 letter to Carlos Favaro, Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply, Vilsack highlighted the responsibility of the U.S. and Brazil, the world’s two largest cattle-producing countries, to protect cattle herd health, but he did not close the country’s access to the U.S. marketplace.

United States Cattlemen’s Association president Justin Tupper said in a recent call with Sec. Vilsack, representatives from USCA, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and RCALF-USA made clear their concerns about Brazil’s habit of delayed reporting, it’s practice of forced labor, and its illegal deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Tupper said based on the Secretary’s letter, he showed some concern, but it did not reach the level of urgency communicated on the call. He made no mention in his letter about the labor or deforestation concerns communicated to him.

“The whole crux of the deal is Brazil has proven time and time again they’re a bad actor in the marketplace,” Tupper said. “With the forced labor they use and the deforestation of the rainforest, they can produce beef at a much lower cost and it’s an unfair advantage to Brazil in the marketplace. Plus, if they’re going to be a bad actor and not report diseases and do the things we have to do as producers, imports should be halted immediately until they want to play on the same playing field.”

Following the most recent delay in reporting, Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Jon Tester (D- MT) revived their 2021 legislation early this year to suspend Brazilian beef imports to the U.S. until a “robust review of the commodity’s impact on food safety and animal health.” The bill was introduced and assigned to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry committee on Feb. 16, 2023, and there it remains.

In his letter, Vilsack recognized Brazil’s BSE detentions have been atypical cases that don’t affect World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) or USDA recognition of Brazil’s negligible BSE risk status.

“However, should Brazil ever detect a classical BSE case or another reportable disease such as Foot and Mouth Disease, the long timeframe between sampling and reporting the detection to WOAH could limit our ability to implement control measures in time to mitigate the risk of potential BSE introduction via imported cattle and beef products. It is for this reason that I urge Brazil, in the strongest terms, to continue its progress in streamlining timely animal disease reporting. Specifically, I ask you to review internal testing processes, consider concurrent rather than consecutive testing strategies for high-suspect samples, and decrease the overall time between sampling and testing even further.”

He went on to reiterate U.S. Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Rosemary Sifford’s offer to “provide confirmatory testing for Brazil through U.S. diagnostic laboratories and support technical discussions on surveillance and testing procedures to assist with Brazil’s ongoing improvement efforts.”

Recent bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) detections in Brazil grabbed the attention of the U.S. in 2021 after Brazil revealed two cases of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, more commonly known as “Mad Cow Disease.” According to releases from the USDA, the cases were discovered in June and not reported until November.

Conversely, the United Kingdom and Germany both reported cases to the World Organization of Animal Health within days of occurrence that same year. The limited number of cases themselves (single cases in 2012, 2014, and 2019) may not indicate health issues in the Brazilian cowherd, the pattern of delayed reporting hints at a lackadaisical or disorganized food safety and animal health reporting system.

The Brazilian cowherd is comprised of 232 million head and Brazil is the largest exporter of beef in the world, accounting for 20% of total global exports according to the USDA. As I earlier reported, China has historically been the largest importer of Brazilian beef, even with a since lifted, three-month embargo driven by BSE concerns, along with Hong Kong, South Africa, Iran, and Iraq, among others. Brazil is also the largest producer of halal meat, which opens tremendous demand in heavily populated Muslim markets where incomes are climbing and with it, demand for beef.


Source: Western Ag Network