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U.S. lawmakers lobbied on foot-and-mouth

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In a letter sent Tuesday, 55 organizations asked a bipartisan group of five U.S. senators -- including Dakotas senators -- for help in stopping the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from going forward with plans to relax the nation's protections against foot-and-mouth disease.

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On Dec. 23, APHIS proposed to relax U.S. disease protections to allow the importation of fresh beef from Brazil, a country where, according to the group's letter, FMD is still considered endemic.

The groups referred to APHIS' proposal to allow fresh Brazilian beef into the United States as "a radical and seemingly unjustified departure" from the disease protection measures that APHIS told Congress were necessary to prevent the introduction of FMD in a 2003 report.

The groups want Congress to require APHIS to suspend consideration of its Brazilian rule until after the agency updates its 2003 Final Report for the Animal Disease Risk Assessment, Prevention, and Control Act of 2001.

The bipartisan group of senators that received the group's request include John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

Among the 55 groups making the request include regional groups Dakota Rural Action, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND), Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming and Massey Road Cattle Producers (Iowa).

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