Tester: Keep Foot-and-Mouth Disease on ‘other side of the world’

Senator’s bill bans imports from Argentina until country is disease-free

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester says his latest legislation is an effort to keep one of the most contagious and devastating livestock diseases "on the other side of the world."

Tester is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Foot-and-Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2008.  The measure bans livestock and meat products from Argentina until that country is deemed to be free of the virus.

"Foot and Mouth Disease doesn't belong in any corner of the world," Tester said.  "But as long as it exists, it had better be kept on the other side of the world.  This is a smart measure that's good for Montana's cattle producers and it's good for Montana."

In 2001, an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) led to the slaughter of most livestock in Great Britain, costing the nation some $16 billion.

Foot-and-Mouth Disease spreads easily among animals, causing severe blisters near their hooves and in their mouths.  The disease can also spread through contaminated air, packaging, vehicles, processed meat and even clothing that has been in contact with the virus.

R-CALF USA, a Billings-based organization that represents independent U.S. cattle producers nationwide, is a longtime supporter of the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2008.

"This is common sense legislation that will go a long way in protecting the viability and profitability of America's cattle industry," said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA.  "There's no room for error when you have to deal with a disease like Foot-and-Mouth.  The sponsors of this legislation recognize that the most effective prevention measure against this highly contagious disease is to ensure that it is not imported into the United States from countries where FMD is known to exist or was recently detected. We appreciate all the hard work that went into getting this measure to Congress, and we'll keep working hard to get it passed into law."

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed allowing livestock and meat imports from southern Argentina, despite an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in the northern part of the country.

Tester worked across party lines with several other western Senators to spearhead a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer outlining their concerns over the proposal, and Argentina's ability to control and track its livestock.

The Foot-and-Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2008 is S. 3238, introduced by Senator Tim Johnson, D-S.D.  Wyoming Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso are also cosponsors the legislation.