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AGRIBUSINESS: Brazil Beef Safe According to USDA

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The USDA proposal to allow frozen and chilled beef from specific Brazilian states extended its comment period for another two months.

A large portion of comments were negative, with producers expressing fear that Brazil's foot-and-mouth disease could come overseas and threaten a weakened American herd. USDA performed a risk assessment that says the selected Brazilian states are good to go. Brazil is the biggest exporter of beef in the world.

Iowa State University Professor Grant Dewell says, to get into Japanese markets, U.S. beef producers pushed for scientific standards that prove a country has animal health under control. He says the standards were set by the World Organization for Animal Health, and it's a two way street.

Dewell says, "The OIE classifies this region of Brazil as foot-and-mouth disease free with vaccinations."

If Brazil's scientifically safe beef is not approved by USDA, they could go to the World Trade Organization and say the U.S. has put up a barrier to trade.

According to Dewell, if Brazil is approved to export beef, the risk of exporting and spreading foot-and-mouth disease is small. A big carrier of the disease are pigs eating swill with beef, but U.S. pork producers changed the way they raise pigs.

"If you look at our swine production nowadays, 99% of that is in barns that are being fed corn and soybeans and things like that." Dewell says, "And that's part of the risk assessment that the USDA did is looking at, since we don't feed swill, the risk of that is really low."

Only about one percent of America's beef would start coming from Brazil, and that would be mostly ground beef. Dewell says instead of replacing the U.S. producer's market, Brazil would most likely edge out Australia and New Zealand.