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Congress files a review of eased regulations on Paraguayan beef imports

Posted at 8:34 AM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 12:28:08-05

WASHINGTON D.C. — In a press release issued by United State Senator Jon Tester's Office (D-MT), in a bipartisan effort with Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), the two filed a Congressional Review Act in an effort to overturn the Biden Administrations decision to allow beef imports from Paraguay. According to the press release, a Congressional Review Act, or CRA, is an oversight tool Congress may use to overturn final rules issued by federal agencies by a simple majority vote.

Senator Tester issued this statement:

“My message to the Biden Administration is simple: cutting corners to resume beef imports from a country with a recent history of foot and mouth disease is bad news for both Montana consumers and producers, and I won’t let it stand. Montana ranchers produce the best beef in the world, and it’s clear that the USDA doesn’t have the data to show that Paraguay meets the same animal health standards. That’s why I’m teaming up with Senator Rounds to overturn this decision from the Biden Administration that is giving a raw deal to American ranchers and could have dangerous impacts on our food supply.”

Sen. Tester working alongside Sen. Mike Rounds, a republican from South Dakota, released their intentions in December 2023 to fight back against the Biden Administration's ruling that could harm U.S. and Montana cowherds.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) is working in congruence with Rounds and Tester, issuing this statement to MTN:

"Montanans deserve to know that the meat they buy for their families is safe for consumption and has met the high standards required in the United States. Biden's move to carelessly allow beef imports from Paraguay, despite their failure to contain infectious diseases, may harm Montana consumers and undermines the hard work our Montana ranchers do to produce the best, highest-quality beef in the world."

The Montana Farmers Union applauds the Congressional Review Act and is looking at it from a perspective of protecting a low population of female cattle.

The University of Kentucky released a study in early 2023, stating the U.S. beef cow herd is at it's lowest number since 1962.

Paraguay has a history of Foot and Mouth Disease and allowing beef imports to the U.S. could infect a struggle population.

"Let's abide by the rules." Walter Schweitzer, President of the Montana Farmers Union expressed, "If APHIS (USDA: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) goes through the whole process and through all of the timeline that they are legally supposed to go through to approve the re-importation of this beef from Paraguay, then okay, that's fine. What we don't want is to shortcut and put our producers at risk."

The Montana Farmers Union told MTN that Paraguay has been "pretty supportive" in stopping the Russia-Ukraine conflict. They added that Russia and China are looking to pull Paraguay to their side in geo-political conflicts in the East China Sea with Taiwan.

"The United States already has one of the lowest female herds in history and if we put that herd at risk, our food security is at risk. All we're asking here is don't use food as a pawn in your negotiations with these bad actors. Find another way," added Schweitzer.

The economic impact to the beef cattle industry would be astronomical if the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease were to break in the United States, according to President of the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, Justin Tupper, "... An outbreak of FMD in the United States would be devastating for both producers and consumers, causing lasting financial losses between $33 and $93 billion."

Montana Farmers Union is an agriculture policy organization that supports the small family farmer, but Schweitzer said, when his organization and the National Cattleman's Beef Association come together on an issue, it must be important. The NCBA is another policy group that represents all areas of the beef industry, which includes the four major packers.

"USDA’s decision to allow Paraguayan beef imports into the U.S. creates an unnecessary risk to the health and safety of the U.S. cattle herd. U.S. cattle producers are held to the highest food safety and animal health standards in the world and any trade partner must be able to demonstrate they can meet those same standards,” said Kent Bacus, Executive Director of Government Affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). “Given Paraguay’s long history of foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks, it is simply too risky to allow Paraguayan imports without recent site visits to confirm Paraguay’s safety claims. U.S. cattle producers are thankful for the leadership of Senators Jon Tester and Mike Rounds for applying the Congressional Review Act to hold USDA accountable and protect our nation’s cattle herd.”

Other organizations in support of the review is the Montana Stockgrowers Association, R-CALF USA, Livestock Marketing Association, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and National Farmers Union.