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Media Contact: Al Davis, 308-458-2220 or cell 308-458-9948

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 10, 2008

Argentina is No Friend of Ours

Hyannis, NE –Hyannis – It's no secret that the economy is currently in the tank. Cattle producers are pressured from all sides. Feed and fuel have skyrocketed which has a huge impact on our industry. As bad as things are now, a real danger looms on the horizon if a little-known rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) takes hold.

In the middle of the Farm Bill fight, the USDA introduced a plan to open up the U.S. market to meat from a country with documented Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) problems. Argentina does not have a tradition of democratic government and beneficent leadership. Indeed, the country has often been ruled by corrupt and incompetent leadership which is only interested in enriching itself at the expense of the Argentine people. Therefore it should not surprise anyone that Argentina has a long history of debt-default and declining standards of living for its inhabitants.

Argentine beef products, oilseed crops, grain, and wine account for 55% of Argentine exports. Argentine beef is world-renowned as a premium product, but the nation is not FMD-free and has not been so for many years, which closes many export markets to its beef. Between 2000 and 2002, Argentina was swept with a major outbreak of FMD which resulted in the deaths of thousands of cattle and an expensive, extensive and ongoing vaccination program. The initial outbreak was caused by the illegal importation of cattle from a neighboring country.

At the same time, the value of the peso was collapsing and the Argentine government ultimately defaulted on it's foreign debt, which resulted in American taxpayers and investors forfeiting over 20 billion dollars and over 155 billion to world investors.

Now USDA wants to change the rules and allow Argentina to export its beef product to the United States by declaring "regions" of the nation FMD free. This is a recipe for disaster for US beef producers for many reasons. First, regionalization in Argentina would establish a price differential between regions. An "entrepreneurial" Argentine beef producer might slip cattle across the unmanned border between the two regions during the middle of the night-and grease the palm of any local official who caught him in the act. He might even have the help of the Argentine government which was less than forthcoming about its FMD problem in 2000. Once safely residing in the FMD-free region, the product could be slaughtered and shipped anywhere in the world, which could give the disease new life.

This is exactly what happened in Great Britain in 2001 when beef products were illegally imported from China. The scope of the loss in Britain was monumental. It resulted in the slaughter of over 1,200,000 head of cattle, sheep, and hogs representing over 2.2% of the entire British livestock herds.

Should an FMD outbreak occur, the receiving nation would lose its FMD disease-free status and export doors would close around the world to that nation's product. Look back at December, 2003, for an answer to what that would do to the cattle market in the US. By the time the dust had settled on the first American BSE case the market had gone limit down for several days.

Regionalization is a risk our producers and our nation cannot afford. A nation with a history of corruption and influence-peddling cannot be trusted. The 2002 default demonstrates that the Argentine government in incapable of discipline and fails to honor its promises and commitments. This is hardly the resumé of a nation that can be trusted to keep FMD out of America. But the USDA seems willing to gamble on them, and in doing so, one of Nebraska's biggest industries could be wiped out.

Representatives Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) and Barbara Cubin (R-WY) recently introduced the Foot and Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2008 to block the USDA's plan and protect our cattle industry. But this bill will have little chance of passage this year unless more lawmakers get behind it.

To date, the bill has six bipartisan co-sponsors and the Senate companion bill has 12, including Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE). It has the support of the National Farmers Union and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. But, none of Nebraska's House members have signed on.

The state's cattle industry is calling on Representatives Fortenberry, Terry, and Smith to get behind this bill before it's too late.

The last time England had an FMD outbreak, it cost their economy nearly $20 billion. America's livestock industry is larger, and the economic impact would be even deadlier.

With gas hovering near $4.00 a gallon and so many Nebraskans struggling to make ends meet, this is one gamble we can't afford to take.

About the author: Al Davis is a third generation rancher from Hyannis, Nebraska. Mr. Davis is a Director for the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska. For more information about the author or the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska please call Al Davis or log on to


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