Dinosaurs Still Roam–Commentary by Bill Bullard, CEO, R-CALF USA

On March 23, 2023, ABC News ran a story titled “Paraguay launches corruption probe of former president: Paraguay’s attorney general has launched a criminal investigation into U.S. allegations that a former Paraguayan president and the current vice president were involved in corruption and had ties to terrorists.”

So, in the wake of U.S. allegations of corruption in the Paraguayan government, take a wild guess what our infinitely wise U.S. Department of Agriculture (or USDA) proposed for Paraguay.

Well, just as it had mistakenly done for Brazil shortly before Brazil was caught violating food safety standards and shipping tainted beef around the world, the USDA decided to trust the Paraguayan government to not cut food safety corners in the production of beef destined for the United States. 

You see just four days after the ABC News story, the USDA proposed to open the U.S. market to imports of fresh and chilled beef from Paraguay, a country the United States does not consider free of foot-and-mouth disease (or FMD), which is among the most contagious diseases affecting cattle, hogs, and sheep.

The last outbreak of FMD in the United States occurred in 1929, which arrived in the U.S. from Argentina. 

Now the USDA predicts that an FMD outbreak in the United States today would cause losses of between $37 billion and $42 billion over a 15-year period.

In sum, FMD is an industry debilitating disease expected to cause tens of billions of dollars in losses to the U.S. cattle industry, and Paraguay is known to not be free of FMD. But that didn’t stop the USDA from pushing its proposal to allow Paraguayan beef into the United States even though beef is a vector for the spread of FMD.

We submitted formal comments regarding the USDA’s proposal to allow Paraguayan beef into the United States, calling the action reckless and irresponsible because it will knowingly expose the largest segment of American agriculture – the U.S. cattle industry – to an unnecessary and avoidable risk of introducing FMD into the United States.

And then there’s this: Americans are growing increasingly impatient with South America’s inability to curb the deforestation of rainforests and other fragile ecosystems. 

Now news articles abound with claims of uncontrolled deforestation in Paraguay, with at least one relating to how Paraguay’s environmental laws are being ignored. It seems the Paraguayan Chaco region is among the top five of the highest rates of deforestation in the world.

And what’s driving this high deforestation rate in Paraguay? Well, those same news articles attribute it to demand for Paraguayan beef and the leather from the country’s cattle.

So, what should USDA expect of its proposal that will further increase demand for Paraguayan beef by granting access to the largest beef consuming nation in the world – which is the United States of America? More deforestation, of course!

And what of all this talk from the government about climate change? Well, I guess it just doesn’t apply to deforestation in Paraguay.

I almost forgot…the USDA predicts that in return for accepting an unnecessary and avoidable disease risk, and for contributing to the deforestation in South America, U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers will be rewarded with annual losses of between $12 and $23 million.

But wait, there has to be a good reason for USDA to do this, right? Apparently if your head is nearly touching the clouds in a high-ranking position within the USDA you’d think the agency’s reason was a good one.

Here it is: The reason the USDA has made this stupid proposal is because it had to because the World Trade Organization headquartered in Geneva said so.  

The USDA stated the United States was a part of the World Trade Organization and therefore was compelled to base its decision regarding Paraguay’s request to gain access to the U.S. beef market on what the agency called scientific principles and guidelines. 

It seems causing economic injury to America’s cattle producers and contributing to the deforestation of Paraguay aren’t on the WTO’s approved list of scientific principles and guidelines.

The USDA obviously missed the memo about looking out for America’s best interests. Instead, the agency is still chasing the failed globalization model: the one that said America will prosper if she offshores our manufacturing to China, our pharmaceutical production to India, our food production to developing countries, and lets America’s middle class dry up and blow away. That’s what we did and that was an abject failure. The winds have changed for most of us and we’re beginning to demand that Congress adopt policies to help rebuild our American economy.    But the USDA’s Paraguayan stunt is an example of refusing to let go of what did not and does not work for America. In fact, it’s proof that dinosaurs still roam the earth.

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