National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today urged the administration to oppose a proposed rule that would allow beef imports from Namibia to the United States. Namibia just this year experienced an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
“The fear over FMD is warranted,” said Johnson in comments submitted today to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “An outbreak would have devastating consequences on our domestic livestock industry. NFU calls upon the administration to defend U.S. farmers and ranchers by opposing imports of live animals and processed or frozen animal products from countries or regions with a history of FMD.”
Johnson noted that in 2006, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed to add Namibia to the list of regions that are considered free of FMD with the exception of north of the country’s Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF).
“Earlier this year Namibia had an outbreak of FMD north of the VCF,” said Johnson. “The Namibian government has said repeatedly that it would like to remove the VCF due to the social and economic inequalities it has created and perpetuated. If the government removes the VCF prior to elimination of all contagious animal diseases, such as FMD, then the U.S. could potentially import infected meat from the country.”
Johnson noted that the U.S. has been very fortunate that an outbreak of FMD has not occurred in the states since 1929, but that other countries have not been so lucky.
“In recent memory, the outbreak of FMD in the United Kingdom (UK) resulted in the slaughter and/or burning of nearly 3 million animals,” said Johnson. “This outbreak was so severe, it delayed the national elections. The epidemic was costly both to farmers and the economy. The total losses to agriculture and the food chain amounted to over $4 billion. Prior to the 2001 outbreak, the UK had gone 34 years without an outbreak.”
“With an increasingly global agricultural economy, the U.S. should remain vigilant and adequately weigh the risks and benefits when seeking to expand imports,” said Johnson. “NFU encourages USDA to delay the FSIS approval of Namibia as an exporter of beef until APHIS reevaluates the status of FMD in the country, given the latest outbreak.”