Senate votes to ban Paraguay beef

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

March 22, 2024

2 Min Read
Cracked US and Paraguay flags
Getty Images/Racide

In a rare show of bipartisan consensus, the Senate easily passed a resolution Thursday to overturn USDA’s rule allowing Paraguayan fresh beef imports. The resolution now moves to the House for consideration.

Last November, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service finalized a rule allowing fresh beef imports from Paraguay. The new rule only allows imports if foot-and-mouth disease has not been diagnosed in the exporting region over the past year. Beef must also originate from an area where the disease has not been detected over an imported animal’s lifespan. Additionally, those animals are subject to inspection before and after death.

While USDA says its risk analysis determined Paraguay beef can be safely imported, many in the agriculture industry are not convinced. Among other concerns, they say USDA’s analysis was based on flawed data. They also believe Paraguay’s inspection processes are not up to U.S. standards.

Those concerns got the attention of Congressional lawmakers, who initiated a process known as the Congressional Review Act. The process allows them to overturn rules enacted by the president and executive branch agencies with a simple majority vote.

Sens. Jon Tester, D- Montana, and Mike Rounds, R- S.D. introduced the Senate legislation. In remarks before the vote, Tester said Biden, a fellow Democrat, “butchered” the decision on Paraguayan imports.

“By cutting corners to resume beef imports from a country with a recent history of foot and mouth disease, the Biden Administration is jeopardizing our food supply and giving Montana consumers and producers a raw deal,” he said. “We cannot allow beef imports from Paraguay until we have data that shows they are meeting same high animal health standards as American ranchers.”

Groups endorsing the resolution include the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the United States Cattlemen’s Association, R-CALF USA, the Livestock Marketing Association, the National Farmers Union and multiple state-level organizations. As expected, NCBA applauded the Senate’s vote.

“Our animal health standards are second to none, and we must be vigilant in protecting the U.S. cattle herd from harmful foreign animal diseases that could have a devastating impact on U.S. agriculture,” NCBA President Marke Eisele said. “Paraguay’s history of foot-and-mouth disease is a great concern, and anyone who wishes to trade with the United States must demonstrate they can meet our high standards.”

It's not immediately clear how the ever-unpredictable House will vote. If lawmakers pass the resolution, it would then go to President Biden for his approval.

Biden could still veto the legislation. However, the Senate’s 70-25 vote indicates they likely have more than the two-thirds majority required to override a veto. In that scenario, the resolution’s fate would again depend on the House, which would need two-thirds of its members to also override the president.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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