The Feb. 21 decision by the U.S. to reopen fresh beef trade with Brazil has raised concern among commodity organizations.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said while it supports "the Trump administration’s efforts to enforce science-based trade with all trade partners," it "has serious concerns about the re-entry of Brazilian beef to the U.S. market."
The Organization for Competitive Markets, said the move "threatens U.S. national and food safety, fuels the global expansion of the world's largest beef companies and flies in the face of the president's 'America First' agenda."
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said the move is an attempt to "destabilize the U.S. cattle industry."
Bullard said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue's economic analysis shows cattle producers would be hardest hit by raw beef imports from 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. "The secretary's assumption is false as imported beef can be sold to American consumers with nothing but a USDA safety inspection sticker."
Some consumers believe the sticker means the beef is a product of USA.
“The re-entry of Brazilian beef to the U.S. market only further exacerbates concerns about the use of 'Product of USA' labels on beef sold in the United States," said Kent Bacus, National Cattlemen’s Beef Senior Director, International Trade and Market Access. "NCBA believes voluntary origin labels with verified source claims will provide transparency in labeling without violating our international trade obligations.”
The Organization for Competitive Markets said this move deals Brazil's global meatpacking giants all the cards in the U.S. cattle industry. Four corporations control 85% of the U.S. beef processing market and the two largest beef processors operating in the U.S., JBS and Marfrig, are Brazilian corporations.
The U.S. closed its border to Brazilian beef after numerous safety concerns were raised. In 2017, JBS was caught bribing meat inspectors and exporting adulterated meat.
“NCBA has frequently questioned the lack of scientific evidence that was used to justify Brazil’s initial access to the U.S. market in 2016, and unfortunately, we were not surprised when Brazil forfeited its beef access to the U.S. in 2017 due to numerous food safety violations," Bacus said. "It is evident that USDA believes that Brazil has addressed the concerns raised in the audit process, and steps will soon be taken to restore Brazil’s access to the United States."
But Bullard isn't convinced, saying "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 Perdue did not review all aspects of Brazil's food safety inspection system, Bullard said, as Perdue 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.