Both of Montana’s U.S. senators, Belgrade resident Steve Daines and Big Sandy’s Jon Tester, are among the crowd of industry and government insiders asking the USDA to immediately suspend fresh beef imports from Brazil.

Their concern centered on Brazil’s foot-dragging over the timely disclosure of two September cases of “mad cow disease.”

To anyone paying attention to the in-and-outs of American beef imports and the fortunes of America’s beef industry, this is just more of the same.

In December 2015, Congress repealed COOL (Country of Origin Legislation) after the World Trade Organization threatened $1 billion in retaliatory trade tariffs.

In a recent interview, Tester told this paper that he was personally threatened by an industry lobbyist if the COOL legislation wasn’t rescinded.

In 2016, the United States opened its markets to Brazilian beef. But by 2017, the USDA closed down those imports after an investigation into corruption involving Brazil’s meat companies, health inspectors, and sanitary conditions.

That was part of a deal between then-President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro: We accepted their beef, and they agreed to take American wheat imports.

Brazilian beef imports cost about 30 percent less than American beef. Even with transportation costs, Brazilian meatpackers can sell their product here for more than they get in Brazil. To further muddy the waters, much of the Brazilian cattle are linked to the deforestation of the Amazon forest.

“Montana ranchers produce the best beef in the world – we need to do everything we can to keep it that way,” Daines told the Belgrade News Wednesday.

“I’m very concerned about Brazil’s failure to report a dangerous disease in their cattle that could seriously jeopardize Montana beef.

“The Biden administration must suspend fresh beef imports from Brazil immediately for the sake of our food safety and the sake of Montana ranchers.”

In November, Tester introduced legislation to stop Brazilian imports until experts can conduct a review of the beef’s safety.

“We need to make sure we adhere to science-based standards,” said Ethan Lane, an official with the national Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“Brazil is outside of those standards. It’s time for some action. This is exactly what we’re going to need to see some movement here.”

In 2017, it was discovered that some Brazilian imports were actually rotten, and that had been attempted to be disguised by chemical sprays on the meat. That started this current round of suspended Brazilian imports.

At the time, Montana beef producers, who make up a $1.7 billion industry, weren’t very thrilled.

“It was a slap in the face to Montana producers,” Tester said at the time.

{span}In an interview in the Havre Herald, Giles Stockton, chair of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, said that allowing more beef into the market – and inferior beef at that – is another hit that could continue a depression that {/span}{span}ranchers have faced for years.{/span}

{span}It’s a “little known secret” that Montana’s livestock industry has been in crisis for half a decade. Montana’s livestock is largely raised to be sold to feedlots. When Congress rescinded COOL, that kicked off the crisis.{/span}

{span}Tester admitted to the Belgrade News that although he voted with that legislation, he later wished he hadn’t.{/span}