African, Brazilian beef imports are deliberate attempt to destabilize U.S. cattle industry (Opinion)
BILLINGS, Mont. — R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said that the Agriculture Secretary’s opening the U.S. market to fresh beef imports from Brazil and Namibia, Africa, are deliberate attempts by both the government and multinational beef packers to destabilize the U.S. cattle industry.
He said the secretary’s own economic analysis shows unequivocally that cattle producers would be hardest hit by raw beef imports from Brazil: “By far, the largest share of the welfare loss would be incurred by cattle producers, at $143 million,” states the secretary’s economic analysis for Brazil.
“But the secretary rationalizes this hit on America’s cattle producers by assuming that the cheaper beef derived from cheaper cattle in Brazil would provide America’s consumers with lower-cost beef and more choices,” Bullard said.
Indeed, the CME Group, a global securities and commodity exchange company, had reported in early January that the price of Brazilian steers was 40% less than the price of U.S. fed steers based on November 2019 pricing data.
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But Bullard contends these cheaper cattle do not result in cheaper beef or more choices for American consumers.
“The secretary’s assumption is false as imported beef can be sold to American consumers with nothing but a USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) safety inspection sticker, meaning consumers cannot distinguish this cheaper beef from the superior, safer and higher-quality beef produced by America’s cattle farmers and ranchers, though the inspection sticker leads every consumer to erroneously believe all the beef available in the grocery store is USA beef,” Bullard commented.
Bullard said the effect of the secretary’s action is to enable multinational meatpackers to exploit consumers on one end of the beef supply chain and harm cattle producers on the other, which he says causes the destabilization of the entire U.S. cattle industry.
According to Bullard, the secretary was in such a rush to allow fresh beef from Brazil that he conducted only a partial audit report that he now uses to claim Brazil is meeting U.S. safety standards.
The January 2020 safety audit reveals that the secretary did not review all aspects of Brazil’s food safety inspection system; he reviewed fewer than 30% of the Brazilian meatpacking plants now eligible to export fresh beef to the U.S.; and, he evaluated only two of the six critical components for determining whether Brazil’s food safety inspection system was equivalent to that of the United States.
“This is further evidence that the secretary is motivated by political objectives and not food safety,” Bullard asserted.
Bullard explained that the meatpackers and the secretary are working aggressively to force cattle producers to comply with unnecessary mandates that will facilitate the vertical integration of the live cattle supply chain. He cites the secretary’s recent and unlawful mandate to require producers to begin using RFID technology and to register their premises with the government.
“The secretary knows that only when America’s cattle producers are financially distressed will they acquiesce to government mandates that infringe on their freedoms to choose how they will produce their cattle. The strategic use of cheaper, undifferentiated imports from Brazil and Africa will cause that financial distress by destabilizing the U.S. cattle market.
“Congress must intervene by reinstating Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (M-COOL) for beef so America’s cattle producers can at least begin competing against these cheaper, less-safe and undifferentiated imports that function as direct substitutes for beef produced exclusively in the United States,” he concluded.
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