U.S. beef inspectors exit Mexico as drug violence escalates

May 20, 2011
by WLJ
U.S. beef inspectors exit Mexico as drug violence escalates

According to the Texas Farm Bureau, escalating drug violence in Mexico is causing U.S. beef inspectors to move operations north of the Mexican border. In the past, inspections were completed before cattle crossed the border, but now the danger is too high for federal inspectors.

“I think it’s fair to say that the facilities located in Mexico presented a wide variety of risks and threats, and our employees did not feel safe going to those facilities every day,” USDA spokeswoman Lyndsay Cole said in an Associated Press report.

However, the change in inspection locations is raising concern among some Texas beef producers. Producers say that infections, long eradicated in the U.S., but still present in Mexico, could make a comeback if cattle are not inspected until crossing the border.

USDA figures show an average 955,000 cattle and calves were imported into the United States from Mexico annually in the past three years. Last year, Texas accounted for more than half the total—511,719 feeder steers and heifers, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Discovery of just one feared parasite, known as the fever tick, outside a traditional border-wide quarantine zone could cost the multi-billion-dollar Texas cattle industry an estimated $123 million the first year alone, a 2010 study by the Texas A&M University Agricultural and Food Policy Center estimates.

According to the report, USDA officials say the change will only be temporary, yet there are no plans of U.S. inspectors returning. — WLJ