Beef and Cattle Imports Set Record under Ag Secretary Vilsack

September 12, 2016 
Contact: Paola Masman, Media Director 
202-688-5145 ext 2,

Beef and Cattle Imports Set Record under Ag Secretary Vilsack

The Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) said today that beef and cattle imports have skyrocketed to record levels, displacing US cattle producers, under US  Agriculture Secretary Tom  Vilsack. As a result, the US cattle herd is at or near its lowest size since 1951.

“We are concerned that the US Department of Agriculture is more focused upon facilitating imports - though claiming to promote exports - than helping rebuild the US cattle production industry,” said Michael Stumo, CEO of CPA. “US cattle prices are in a free fall even as Secretary Vilsack has reached agreement to relax health requirements to allow Brazil, the world’s number two beef producer, to ship beef to the US.”

Cattle, beef and beef product imports have nearly doubled (from an average $3.05 billion per year to $6.04 billion per year) under the Vilsack Agriculture Department in relation to the Clinton years. The imports have increased by 33% in relation to the George W. Bush years ($4.5 billion per year average). 


us_cattle_beef_.pngSource: USDA

“Many believe that we have a trade surplus in cattle and beef but the reality is that the US trade deficit in cattle and beef has skyrocketed in the last three years,” continued Stumo. “Ranchers and cattle producers have seen price declines as imports displace their production in the beef supply chain. Yet consumers see little if any benefit when buying retail beef at the store.  It is a lose-lose proposition.” 

In late 2015, the US repealed its country of origin labeling law after Mexico and Canada successfully challenged it at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Beef packers and retailers can now import foreign beef, affix a USDA inspected seal on it, and consumers are misled into believing the beef is US born, raised and slaughtered. An import surge corresponded with the WTO decision. 

Last month Vilsack took the drastic step of allowing raw Brazilian beef into the US market, overruling a longstanding ban due to the country’s history of foot and mouth disease.  Vilsack misleadingly promoted the action as an export opportunity for US producers, saying “The Brazilian market offers excellent long-term potential for U.S. beef exporters.”

But the reality is that Brazil is the world’s second largest cattle producer and third largest exporter.  With a cattle herd more than double the size of the US herd, the country produces more beef than it can consume. 

“America’s trade and competitiveness policy needs to focus upon rebuilding our food and goods production supply chains,” said Stumo. “Instead our government officials sell us ‘export opportunities’ that disguise the actual result  - the offshoring of our agriculture as well as our manufacturing. Importers win while producers lose and consumers often don’t receive a price benefit.”

The Coalition for a Prosperous America is a nonprofit organization representing the interests of 2.7 million households through our agricultural, manufacturing and labor members.

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