On Aug. 29, USDA-APHIS published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that will allow the United States to import chilled and frozen beef from two additional regions of Argentina: Northern Argentina, a region located north of Patagonia South, and Patagonia North B. Comments will be accepted through Oct. 28.
The proposal follows completion of a risk assessment conducted at the request of the Argentine government. The region of Northern Argentina vaccinates against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), and thus cannot be declared free of FMD by APHIS. But the proposed rule suggests that fresh/frozen beef can be safely imported from this region if certain conditions are met, specifically citing the requirements for Uruguayan beef exports to the United States.
It is noteworthy that APHIS is proposing to allow beef imports from a region that is vaccinating for FMD. This is also the case for a recent proposal regarding imports of Brazilian beef from regions other than Santa Catarina, which has been declared FMD-free without vaccination. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has expressed concerns about the proposed Brazil rule, and on Friday issued a statement expressing similar concerns about the Argentina proposal. Uruguay is currently the only country vaccinating for FMD that has access for chilled/frozen beef exports to the United States.
The economic assessment included in the proposed rule includes an annual estimated import volume of 20,000 metric tons (mt). The U.S. has a 20,000 mt tariff rate quota (TRQ) for Argentine beef, established in the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. Imports within the quota are subject to low duties, varying by cut, from 4 percent to 4.4 cents/kilogram, while the out-of-quota duty rate is 26.4 percent. If Argentina is able to export 20,000 mt of beef to the United States, the U.S. would be a leading destination for Argentine beef. Uruguay also has a 20,000 mt TRQ for exports to the United States, and will likely fill the quota this year. Uruguay is currently the sixth-largest supplier to the U.S. behind Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and Nicaragua.
APHIS also announced this week that it is adding Patagonia South (which was previously declared FMD-free with vaccination) and Patagonia North B to the list of regions considered free of FMD. This announcement is available online.
Meanwhile, the U.S. beef industry still faces a BSE-related ban on exports to Argentina.