published : 2023-11-11

Biden Administration Faces Backlash for Allowing Beef Imports that May Carry Devastating Disease

Top US cattle group criticizes Biden admin's flawed risk assessment

Close-up photo of a Paraguayan cattle farmer inspecting the health of a cow. (Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

The Biden administration received intense criticism on Friday for its decision to open the borders to imports of fresh beef from Paraguay, a move that experts warn may introduce a potentially devastating livestock disease into the United States.

The Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) finalized regulations on Thursday to allow Paraguayan beef imports. However, concerns have been raised about the history of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreaks in Paraguay's livestock industry that could pose a significant threat to the US economy.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), the largest industry group representing US cattle producers, strongly condemned the decision, claiming that the risk assessment conducted by the USDA was deeply flawed. According to Kent Bacus, the executive director of government affairs for the NCBA, the assessment relied on outdated data from site visits conducted over nine years ago.

Image of a USDA official conducting inspections at a Paraguayan beef processing plant. (Taken with a Nikon D850)

Bacus further pointed out that Paraguay heavily relies on private sector funding for its FMD mitigation measures, posing a potential risk during the country's economic downturn in recent years. He argued that the USDA should prioritize the safety of US animal health and not compromise it for diplomatic interests with South America.

The decision to allow Paraguayan beef imports has garnered negative feedback from various US cattle industry associations such as the United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA), the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), and regional affiliates of the NCBA. They all expressed concerns about the potential outbreak of FMD in the US and its detrimental impact on the domestic animal population.

In response to the criticism, the Paraguayan government, through its embassy in the United States, assured that they would comply with all food safety and quality regulations set by US authorities. They emphasized the mutual benefits of beef trade between the two nations and expressed confidence in the success of Paraguayan beef in the US market.

A group of American cattle producers discussing the potential risks of Paraguayan beef imports. (Taken with a Sony A7 III)

However, the opposition remains firm, as US cattle and beef industry representatives argue that the risk assessment did not consider potential sourcing of beef from other South American countries, such as Brazil, Bolivia, or Argentina, where no risk assessment has been conducted by the US.

This controversial decision now raises concerns about the potential consequences for the American cattle and beef industry, as well as the health and livelihood of the US population. The call to rescind the proposed rule and reassess the risk factors lies with industry groups and concerned citizens alike.

As the Biden administration faces mounting scrutiny on multiple fronts, the impact of this decision on the nation's economy and food security will undoubtedly be a matter of intense debate and concern.