USCA Calls for the Halt of Namibian Beef Imports

(FEBRUARY 19) – The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) calls for the immediate halt of beef imports from Namibia following reports of recent outbreaks of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) in the country.

Namibia’s livestock industry is divided into two zones by the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF). The VCF, built in the mid-1960s, stands more than 550 miles long, and is passable at 9 permanent check points. North of the VCF is the FMD-infected zone, where the most recent outbreaks occurred, whereas south of the VCF is considered by the OIE as a “FMD free zone where vaccination is not practiced.”

However, the region’s African buffalo populations are considered to be persistent carriers of FMD. Documented cases of wildlife crossing into Namibia through the Zambezi river at shallow points elicits concern that diseased populations can move freely into and out of the country, and may contact domestic cattle herds. The country’s elephant population also has been known to traverse the Veterinary Cordon Fence, causing damage to the fence line which allows other wildlife to travel freely between the country’s Northern and Southern regions.

Though veterinary service employees work to repair damaged fence lines, there is still plenty of opportunity for FMD-infected wildlife to pass between the regions. USCA requests a thorough review of these ongoing concerns before moving forward with any discussion of trade with Namibia. The acceptance of beef imports from countries with known FMD-positive cases in the immediate area of the supposed buffer zone is unacceptable, and puts our entire industry at risk. USCA recommends the installation of a true buffer zone, free of multiple positive cases, or the buffer zone should be enlarged until the area is free of quarantined locations.

USCA President Brooke Miller issued the following statement: 

“Now more than ever, we need to ensure there are strong health and safety standards in place within our food supply chain to guard against threats to our agriculture industry. FMD represents one of the gravest, most serious threats to the health of our domestic health herd. An outbreak within the U.S. could result in $14 billion in losses, including losses both to farm income and the effect on consumers and international trade relations. Further, a FMD outbreak would dramatically disrupt the food supply chain and cause soaring beef prices in the grocery store.

“The U.S. has not experienced an outbreak of FMD within our borders for almost 100 years – but in recent years, we continue to recklessly pursue trading relations with countries with known FMD outbreaks. Congress needs to employ its oversight role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its pursuit of importing beef products from countries known to be infected with FMD. USCA asks this be a prominent topic in upcoming House and Senate Agriculture Committee hearings.

“USCA also urges the Senate to swiftly confirm Agriculture Secretary nominee Mr. Tom Vilsack. Once installed at USDA, USCA looks forward to continuing this dialogue with Mr. Vilsack to address concerns with Namibian beef trade.”