Argentina’s foreign prime minister Hector Timerman announced on Tuesday that the country’s beef would soon be permitted for export into the U.S. Since 2001, the U.S. has banned Argentina's beef to prevent a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak from the country’s cattle population.

Timerman describes the ban as “poor handling of the foot-and-mouth disease by the government in 2001,” Argentina’s cow herds have not seen traces of the outbreak since 2007.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says it will amend current regulations to allow fresh--chilled or frozen--beef to be imported into the U.S. again from Argentina as well as from 14 states in Brazil.

Reopening the U.S. market to Argentina’s beef could be worth an estimated $280 million, and Brazil expects 100,000 tons of their beef to enter the U.S. in the next 5 years. An exact timeframe for when the ban will be lifted for each country has yet to be determined since each still needs to meet other food safety standards before the process can move forward.

News of reinstating these international beef imports has not been welcomed by all. The National Farmers Union (NFU) released a statement expressing their disappointment with the decision, claiming that the “decision to allow importation of fresh and chilled beef from some regions of Brazil and Argentina [is] a move that has potentially devastating consequences for American family farmers and ranchers.” The NFU says that beef imports from these countries will affect the economic livelihood of American food producers, exposing the U.S. livestock industry to a “highly contagious disease”. Since foot-and-mouth disease is known to spread very quickly, the NFU points out a number of possible repercussions:

  • An outbreak that leads to health and safety issues
  • Quarantine and/or eradication of animals
  • More bans on exports
  • Reduced consumer confidence

Also expressing disappointment is Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), saying that the U.S. hasn’t experienced a foot-and-mouth outbreak in 86 years because of importation bans that refuse meat from certain countries.

In addition to the U.S., Timerman says that Canada and Mexico are also expected to reopen their markets to receive beef from Argentina.