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Brazilian beef under national spotlight

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MONTANA — The debate over importing Brazilian beef has continued this spring with politicians around the country working to suspend imports. 

Montana’s Jon Tester and South Dakota’s Mike Rounds reintroduced a bipartisan bill to the U.S. Senate in February to suspend Brazilian beef imports into the U.S. until experts can review the import’s impacts on both food safety and animal health. 

Brazilian beef most recently came under scrutiny in 2021 when the country suspended exports in September of that year due to two cases of “atypical” mad cow disease – bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – in two separate meat plants. However, it was later revealed in a letter from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the cases had been originally detected in June, months before they were reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and trade partners alike.

According to statistics from the USDA, Brazil was the second-largest U.S. supplier of beef in total volume in 2021, just behind Mexico. The U.S. imported $62.3 million from Brazil in just the first nine months of 2021, a 36% increase over the same period in 2020. 

Brazilian beef imports had been previously suspended by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) in 2017 in response to a widely reported beef scandal early that year in which Brazil was found to be exporting rotten and tainted beef. That suspension ended on Feb. 21, 2020. This was followed the next year by a failure to report BSE cases in a timely manner – something the country has reportedly been repeatedly guilty of since 2012 – politicians throughout the U.S. have expressed a lack of consumer confidence in Brazilian beef. 

“As a third-generation farmer, I know how hard Montana ranchers work to produce top quality beef that consumers can trust,” Tester stated in a recent press release. “Folks shouldn’t have to worry about whether the products they buy at the grocery store are safe to eat, and that’s why we need to halt Brazilian beef imports until Brazilian producers can prove that their products meet our health and safety standards. I’ll take on anyone, at home and abroad, to ensure that Montana producers aren’t cut out of the market by foreign corporations who aren’t following the rules.”

The bipartisan bill, S.480, has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry by the U.S. Senate. A working group will be required by the USDA to evaluate the safety and animal health threat posed by beef imported from Brazil and make recommendations on whether the importation of beef from Brazil should be permitted. The bill also suspends imports of beef from Brazil until the working group submits it recommendations to the USDA.

To stay informed and track the bill’s progress, visit:

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