The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published in the Federal Register a comprehensive rule for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) on March 16, 2012. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) voiced support for the rule in comments submitted late Tuesday. NCBA Vice President Bob McCan said the organization has been pushing for this rule since the first case of BSE was detected in the United States in December 2003.
USDA is proposing to amend regulations governing the importation of animals and animal products to revise the conditions for the importation of live bovines and products derived from bovines with regard to BSE. Under the proposed rule, current BSE regulations will change the current classification system to mirror the OIE classification system [(a) negligible risk, (b) controlled risk, (c) undetermined risk]. Import restrictions will be based on inherent risk BSE infectivity of the product and of the region of origin. USDA’s proposed rule will be consistent with OIE. Any decision to lift classification of a country will be based on review of the latest scientific information available.
"This has been a long time coming and we certainly welcome this rule. Quite simply, this proposed rule will show the United States is willing to talk the talk and walk the walk with regard to following international standards developed by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)," said McCan. "We cannot demand our trading partners follow OIE standards when we are not here at home."
As noted in the comments submitted by NCBA, the comprehensive BSE rule will solidify the United States’ commitment to basing trade relationships on internationally-recognized, science-based standards. McCan said maintaining a healthy cattle herd is a top priority for NCBA and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) should be commended for putting forth a comprehensive BSE rule that allows the United States to meet demand with little, if any, market disruption.
"The U.S. beef industry has worked closely with USDA-APHIS for many years to make sure we have the highest quality controls in place to maintain a healthy cattle population" said McCan. "We must have an objective comprehensive rule in place for beef and cattle imports as soon as possible in order for our nation’s trade negotiators to have credibility in opening markets for U.S. beef. Non-tariff trade barriers hinder our ability to expand U.S. beef exports with many of our global trading partners. Cattlemen need our trade negotiators to eliminate these barriers by requiring our global trading partners to make objective, science-based decisions regarding U.S. beef."
Comments on the proposed rule were due to the Federal Register yesterday, May 15, 2012. McCan said NCBA is ready to work with members of Congress and the administration to finalize the rule.