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APHIS proposes rule to match OIE standards on BSE

By KIM de BOURBON

A proposed rule to bring U.S. import regulations regarding bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in line with international animal health standards is expected to help reopen trade markets that remain closed to U.S. beef, the Agriculture Department’s chief veterinarian, Dr. John Clifford, said today.
Dr. John Clifford

Dr. John Clifford
“The rule does bring us in line with science regarding this particular disease,” Clifford said in a call to reporters. “This rule will also assist us to reopen markets or open new markets, and bring us in line with OIE standards that we have asked other countries to comply with.”

The proposed rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register within a week. It can be read at www.aphis.usda.gov. USDA will consider comments within 60 days of publication.

With the changes, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) would adopt the same criteria and categories that the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) uses to identify a country’s BSE risk status: negligible, controlled and undetermined risk.

Asked why it took so many years for the United States to adopt the same standards as the rest of the world, Clifford, APHIS deputy aAdministrator and chief veterinary officer, said there were legal issues that had to be addressed.

“It has taken us a little longer than we would have liked, but rule-making is not always a simple process,” he said.

Although Clifford said the rule will not impact the status of the United States as a “controlled risk” country, he noted the agency is continuing negotiations with the OIE on its request to be considered for “negligible risk” status.

In response to a question about which countries might gain greater access to U.S. beef, Clifford said the proposed rule would “across the board strengthen the U.S.” beef trade .

Lisa Ferguson, APHIS deputy director for science and technology, cited the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands as examples of countries that may be impacted by the rule, noting they are also “controlled risk” countries and free of any other diseases of concern.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association welcomed the announcement, saying the lack of a comprehensive rule has harmed U.S. beef trade.
Kent Bacus

Kent Bacus
NCBA Associate Director of Legislative Affairs Kent Bacus said in a statement that the BSE rule “will show the United States is willing to talk the talk and walk the walk” regarding following the OIE’s standards.

“It is very difficult for the United States to demand our trading partners follow OIE standards when we are not here at home,” Bacus said.

“The comprehensive BSE rule will change that and will solidify the United States' commitment to basing our trade relationships on internationally-recognized, science-based standards,” Bacus said. “This rule has been a long time coming, and we stand ready to work with members of Congress and the administration to finalize this rule."

March 9, 2012 — APHIS Proposes New Bovine Import Regulations in Line with International Animal Health Standards
Proposed Rule – Docket No. APHIS-2008-0010
APHIS Questions and Answers: BSE Comprehensive Rule
World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)