Tester Skewers Administration’s Brazilian Beef Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 4, 2016

 

Marneé Banks | 202.604.5521

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Tester Skewers Administration’s Brazilian Beef Decision

Senator Stands Up for Montana Agriculture Producers and Consumers

 

(Big Sandy, MT) – Senator Jon Tester called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase transparency and address safety concerns regarding the importation of Brazilian beef.

 

This week USDA announced a policy change allowing Brazil to send raw beef to the United States.  Tester sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack on behalf of Montana consumers and hard-working cattlemen and women outlining his concerns about Brazil’s food safety standards and its meat industry’s recent history of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).  Tester pushed the USDA for answers on what the Administration has done to improve the emergency response to an animal disease outbreak such as FMD.  Additionally, he called for more transparency in how this decision was made and how these food safety standards would be verified in the future.

 

“Montana cattle producers have the best beef around, and they are held to the highest food safety standards,” Tester wrote.  “We should expect no less from Brazilian producers.”

 

In light of this decision, Brazil is expected to send 60,000 tons of beef to the United States this year.

 

“Montana ranchers cannot afford to jeopardize our state’s world renowned cattle herds to possible Foot and Mouth Disease exposure as a result of USDA’s recent announcement to import fresh chilled or frozen beef from Brazil,” said Errol Rice of the Montana Stockgrowers.  “We appreciate Senator Tester’s urgent inquiry into USDA’s decision and we look forward to working together to ensure that all possible risks to FMD have been thoroughly analyzed and addressed with rigorous scientific protocol by USDA.”

 

“USDA’s announcement falls in line with the number of obligations currently directed by agreements within the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the US.  The problem is that too often Brazil adheres to a “do as I say- not as I do” type of policy.  Brazil has a lengthy history of WTO violations that continue to undercut all sectors of US production agriculture.  Despite this, Brazil is the first to leverage the WTO when it works in their favor,” said Leo McDonnell, Director Emeritus of the US Cattleman’s Association.  “Senator Tester’s letter and ongoing efforts to combat such abuses ensures that both Montana and US cattle producers will not be run roughshod over by a country that continues to fail on every level in living up to international commitments.”

 

Tester’s letter to Secretary Vilsack can be found HERE.

MSGA Leadership Travels to Washington D.C. to Advocate Top Priorities Facing Montana’s Cattle Industry

Helena, MT – A leadership delegation from the Montana Stockgrowers Association traveled to Washington D.C. April 12-14 to lobby numerous issues with Congress and Federal agencies. These issues included: Eradication of Brucellosis, Country of Origin Labeling for U.S. Beef, stopping the proposed federal bison quarantine facility, federal water regulations, sage grouse, endangered species, Antiquities Act (i.e. monument designations) reform and international trade.

MSGA brought forth tactical ideas to eliminate the threat of Brucellosis expansion beyond Montana’s Designated Surveillance Area (DSA). In a meeting with Dr. T.J. Myers, Associate Deputy Administrator with USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services MSGA requested that Brucella Abortus be removed from the USDA and Center for Disease Control’s select bioterrorism agents list. This would allow for more research to develop a more effective vaccine for bison, elk and cattle. MSGA also requested continued federal funding support for Montana’s DSA implementation but to also develop a renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Montana, Wyoming and Idaho along with USDA and the National Park Service that commits to the elimination of brucellosis from the Greater Yellowstone Area. Montana’s DSA is not a long-term solution to brucellosis management.

MSGA met with senior staff on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, chaired by Congressman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) to discuss possible industry led alternatives to the recently repealed mandatory country of origin labeling of beef. In particular MSGA has policy to work on the development of a comprehensive, broad-based industry led labeling program for U.S. beef.

MSGA has a strong relationship with Montana’s Public Lands Council and Association of State Grazing Districts to work on federal land grazing matters.  MSGA and PLC met with Neil Kornze, Director of BLM, and requested that BLM reconsider the decision to allow year-round bison grazing on Montana’s Flat Creek Allotment located in Phillips County.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was another top priority for MSGA while in D.C. It was universally felt by Montana’s Congressional delegation that a vote on TPP would not happen until after the 2016 election, however MSGA feels that TPP should be a top priority for Congress regardless of political elections. The TPP will remove tariff barriers in some of our major export markets including Japan – one of our largest beef export markets. The TPP is expected to increase cash receipts and net exports from Montana by $86.9 million and $56.6 million per year respectively.

It is vitally important for Montana’s ranching community to have representation in Washington, D.C. and MSGA was very pleased with the outcome of the many high-level meetings that were held with members of Congress and Administration officials. MSGA would also like to thank Senator Tester, Senator Daines and Representative Zinke and their professional staff for their time and commitment to Montana’s cattle and ranching industry.

house ag committee

L to R back row: Senior House Agriculture Commmitte Staff Christine Heggem; Public Lands Council Vicki Olson – Malta, MT; Montana Cattlewomen Wanda Pinnow – Baker, MT; MSGA President Gene Curry – Valier, MT; MSGA Director of Natural Resources Jay Bodner – Helena, MT; MSGA Executive Vice President Errol Rice – Helena, MT. Front row: MSGA 1st Vice President Bryan Mussard – Dillon, MT; MSGA 2nd Vice President Fred Wacker – Miles City, MT.