Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union (NFU), has urged the Obama administration to oppose a proposed rule that would make Namibia eligible to export meat to the United States. The opposition is due to a recent outbreak of Foot-And-Mouth Disease (FMD) in the Southern African nation.
“The fear over FMD is warranted,” said Johnson in comments submitted to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “An outbreak would have devastating consequences on our domestic livestock industry.”
While an outbreak of FMD has not occurred in the United States since 1929, other countries have not had such good fortune.
“In recent memory, the 2001 outbreak of FMD in the United Kingdom (UK) resulted in the slaughter and/or burning of nearly 3 million animals,” said Johnson. “This outbreak was so severe, it delayed the national elections. The epidemic was costly both to farmers and the economy. The total losses to agriculture and the food chain amounted to over $4 billion. Prior to that outbreak, the UK had gone 34 years without an outbreak.”
In 2006, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) made a proposition to add Namibia to the list of regions considered free of FMD, with the exception of the Veterinary Cordon Fence (VCF), also called the “Red Line,” a pest-exclusion fence that separates northern Namibia, where recent outbreaks have occurred, from the central and southern parts of the country. The Namibian government has considered removing the VCF due to social and economic inequalities it has created and perpetuated.
“If the government removes the VCF prior to elimination of FMD and all other contagious animal diseases, then the U.S. could potentially import infected meat from the country,” said Johnson. “With an increasingly global agricultural economy, the U.S. should remain vigilant and adequately weigh the risks and benefits when seeking to expand imports. NFU encourages USDA to delay the FSIS approval of Namibia as an exporter of beef until APHIS reevaluates the status of FMD in the country, given the latest outbreak.”