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NCBA urges Vilsack to halt Brazilian fresh beef imports …. again

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — Following a recent USDA report highlighting an increase in Brazilian beef imports, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) renewed its call for the immediate suspension of fresh beef imports from Brazil. NCBA has repeatedly called for a thorough audit of Brazil’s animal health and food safety system, to ensure the safety of the U.S. cattle herd. In 2021, Brazilian exports to the United States increased by 131 percent. In the first three months of 2022, Brazil has already shipped more than 50,000 metric tons of fresh beef to the U.S.

This unprecedented surge of imports triggered a temporary tariff safeguard of 26.4 percent that will apply to Brazilian beef imports for the rest of 2022. While a temporary tariff increase may discourage further imports from Brazil, it does not address the underlying concern over Brazil’s repeated failure to adhere to international animal health and food safety standards, a pattern that reaches as far back as 2012. Multiple bans of fresh Brazilian beef have been enacted over the years and across administrations.

“We are, once again, calling on Secretary Vilsack to suspend fresh beef imports from Brazil, because of that country’s long history of failing to report BSE cases in a timely manner. It’s incredibly disappointing to have our science-based recommendations met with no notable response by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane. “As beef imports from Brazil continue to rise, we urge USDA to reconsider their stance on Brazilian beef and take necessary action to safeguard the integrity of the entire U.S. food supply chain.”

NCBA believes that restricting Brazilian imports altogether is essential until Brazil proves it is a trustworthy and reliable trade partner, capable of adhering to US standards.

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, from January through September 2021, Americans imported the equivalent of $216.18 million (US$) worth of Brazilian beef, a number that is three times higher than the same period in 2020 when $60.34 million (US$) came from the South American country to U.S. shores. In volume, the United States bought 38.69 thousand tons of frozen beef from Brazil in the first nine months of this year.  By comparison, during the same period last year, 12.89 thousand tons were shipped from Brazil to the United States.

Overall, the U.S. market has imported 2.48 billion pounds of beef (from all sources) from January through September 2021, which is down 6.2% from 2020. The most beef imports come to the United States from Canada, followed by Mexico, New Zealand and Australia. Brazilian imports stand in fifth place.

Only 12 percent of beef consumed in America is imported, and nearly 75 percent of beef imports are lean beef trimmings used in combination with fattier trimming to make ground beef. The majority of imported beef comes from countries that have formalized trade agreements with the United States or who have specific import quotas. All other beef imports are sold under the “Other Countries” annual quota of 65,000 metric tons. Beef sold under the “Other Countries” quota is a charged a rate of 4.4 cents per kilogram, and beef sold over the quota is charged a 26.4 percent tariff.

According to the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection report, the “Other Countries” quota is full, resulting in a tariff increase on beef imports from Brazil, Japan, Ireland, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom for the remainder of 2022. A majority of the quota was met due to the 50,000 metric tons of fresh beef imports from Brazil to the United States in the first quarter of 2022.

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