Jon Tester

12/06/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/06/2023 10:51

Tester Goes to Bat for Montana Ranchers with Bipartisan Bill to Block Beef Imports from Paraguay

Senator's bill would reverse Biden Administration's recent decision to lift long-standing ban on Paraguayan beef imports despite animal health concerns

As part of his continued effort to support Montana ranchers and ensure the safety of American consumers, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to suspend beef imports from Paraguay in response to animal health concerns. Tester's bipartisan bill would reverse the Biden Administration's recent decision to lift a long-standing ban on Paraguayan beef imports.

"I drove more than 100 miles one-way from my farm this past weekend to butcher a cow because Montana ranchers produce the best beef in the world and work tirelessly to ensure their livestock are safe," said Tester."Paraguay has failed to meet the standard put forward by Montana ranchers. That's why I'm leading bipartisan legislation to stand up to the Biden Administration and block beef imports from Paraguay until we have good, reliable data to show they can meet these same high standards as American ranchers."

In addition to suspending beef imports from Paraguay, Tester's bill would also require the establishment of a working group to evaluate the threat to food safety and animal health posed by Paraguayan beef. The bipartisan legislation is supported by R-CALF USA, United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) and National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).

"We applaud Senator Rounds and Senator Tester for introducing this bill to protect both American livestock and American citizens," said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA. "By requiring a timely and thorough evaluation of potential risks to disease introduction and food safety associated with importing fresh and frozen beef from Paraguay, the bill will ensure that America's food supply remains safe and it's cattle herd remains healthy."

"The U.S. cattle industry has been absolutely clear on the immediate need to halt the importation of beef from countries such as Paraguay and Brazil," said Justin Tupper, President of U.S. Cattlemen's Association. "There are numerous reasons to take action, including the threat to the health of the domestic cattle herd, the associated food safety risks due to government corruption within these nations, the deforestation of critical ecosystems to support industry in these countries, and the use of forced labor practices. Senators Rounds and Tester continue to demand accountability and transparency from countries like Paraguay and Brazil. USCA strongly urges other Members of Congress to support these efforts and join the call for the immediate half of Paraguayan and Brazilian beef imports."

"The United States has the highest food safety and animal health standards in the world, and any country who wishes to trade with the United States must demonstrate that they can meet those standards," said Ethan Lane, Vice President of Government Affairs of NCBA. "Paraguay's long history of foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks and the lack of recent site visits, makes importing beef from Paraguay too risky. All our trade partners need to have inspection systems that can clearly provide an equivalent level of safety for animal health to prevent a possible foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the United States. Cattle producers thank Senators Mike Rounds and Jon Tester for introducing legislation to help protect consumers and cattle from foreign animal disease."

As the Senate's only working farmer, Tester has led the charge to support Montana ranchers and increase competition for American family farms and ranches. In February, Tester introduced bipartisan legislation to suspend Brazilian beef imports to the U.S. until experts can conduct a systemic review of the commodity's impact on food safety and animal health. Tester has repeatedly pressed USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on suspending Brazilian beef imports to the U.S. and addressing consolidation in the ag industry, citing that JBS - one of the four big packers controlling more than 80% of the beef industry - is based in Brazil.

Tester has also introduced his bipartisan Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Actto increase market transparency by establishing minimums for negotiated sales and requiring clear reporting of marketing contracts, and his Meatpacking Special Investigator Actto combat anticompetitive practices in the meat processing industry by appointing a USDA special investigator with subpoena power to enforce the nation's anti-trust laws. And in January, Tester introduced his bipartisan American Beef Labeling Act to reinstate mandatory country of original labeling (MCOOL) for beef.