[Federal Register: February 8, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 25)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 6554-6556]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr08fe05-3]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

9 CFR Part 327

[Docket No. 99-018F]

 
Addition of Slovakia to the List of Countries Eligible To Export 
Meat Products to the United States

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is adding 
Slovakia to the list of countries eligible to export meat products to 
the United States. Reviews of Slovakia's laws, regulations, and other 
written materials show that its meat processing system meets 
requirements that are equivalent to the relevant provisions of the 
Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and its implementing regulations.
    Meat products processed in certified establishments in Slovakia 
will be eligible to be exported to the United States only if these 
products are derived from cattle, sheep, swine, or goats slaughtered in 
federally inspected establishments in the United States, or in 
certified slaughter establishments in other countries eligible to 
export meat to the United States. All meat products exported from 
Slovakia to the United States will be subject to reinspection at the 
U.S. ports-of-entry by FSIS inspectors as required by law.

EFFECTIVE DATE: April 11, 2005.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Sally White, Director, 
International Equivalence Staff, Office of International Affairs; (202) 
720-6400.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    On August 13, 2001, FSIS published a proposal in the Federal 
Register (66 FR 42472) to add Slovakia to the list of countries 
eligible to export meat and meat products to the United States. As 
discussed in that proposed rulemaking, in 1993, the country formerly 
known as Czechoslovakia split into two separate countries, the Czech 
Republic and Slovakia. Although Czechoslovakia had been listed as 
eligible to export meat and meat products to the United States since 
1972, the part of the country that became Slovakia had never had any 
establishments certified to export meat or meat products to the United 
States. Thus, FSIS did not have sufficient information about Slovakia's 
meat inspection system to determine whether it was equivalent to the 
U.S. system. Therefore, the Agency required that Slovakia request and 
receive approval from FSIS before it could be deemed eligible to export 
meat and meat products to the United States.
    In the proposed rule, FSIS reported that Slovakia had met the 
certification requirements imposed in the United States' meat 
inspection regulations, that its meat processing inspection system is 
equivalent to that of the United States, and that its official residue 
control laboratory is fully capable of testing meat food products. 
Therefore, FSIS proposed to permit Slovakia to export processed meat 
products to the United States.
    Because only one pork processing establishment in Slovakia had 
requested certification to export meat products to the United States, 
Slovakia requested that FSIS evaluate and approve only its meat 
processing inspection system. Thus, FSIS' equivalence evaluation of 
Slovakia's meat inspection system did not include a review of the 
slaughter inspection component. As a result, the carcasses or parts of 
any cattle, sheep, swine, or goats processed in establishments in 
Slovakia approved to export to the United States must be derived from 
animals slaughtered in the United States under USDA inspection or in 
establishments in other countries that are certified as eligible to 
export to the United States. The government of Slovakia has agreed to 
conduct its program in a way that ensures that meat products processed 
in Slovakia are only prepared from cattle, sheep, swine, or goats that 
were slaughtered in certified establishments in eligible countries. If 
FSIS were to evaluate Slovakia's slaughter inspection system and 
determine that it is equivalent to that of the United States, the 
Agency would conduct a separate rulemaking.
    Therefore, when this rule becomes effective, meat products 
processed in certified establishments in Slovakia will be eligible for 
exportation to the United States only if these products are derived 
from cattle, sheep, swine, or goats slaughtered in federally inspected 
establishments in the United States, or in certified slaughter 
establishments in other countries eligible to export meat to the United 
States.

Comments

    FSIS received 36 comments on the proposed rule. Most were from 
private citizens and individual members of a women's agricultural 
organization, a few were from small cattle producers, and one was from 
a national cattle producer trade association. All commenters opposed 
adding Slovakia to the list of countries eligible to export meat and 
meat products into the United States.
    Comment: Most of the commenters opposed the proposed rule because, 
at the time that the rule was published, Slovakia was listed in USDA's 
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulations as a 
region that presents an undue risk of introducing bovine spongiform 
encephalopathy (BSE) into the United States (9 CFR 94.18(a)(2)). After 
publication of the proposed rule, APHIS amended its regulations to add 
Slovakia to the list of countries in which BSE is known to exist (9 CFR 
94.18(a)(1)). The commenters stated that, because of Slovakia's BSE 
status, it should remain ineligible to export meat and meat products to 
the United States under FSIS' regulations.
    One commenter opposed permitting Slovakia to export meat and meat 
products to the United States because Slovakia is not listed by APHIS 
as a region that is free from foot and mouth disease (FMD)(9 CFR 94.1). 
The commenter stated that if Slovakia were listed as eligible to export 
meat and meat products to the United States, there is a risk that these 
products could introduce FMD to the United States.
    Response: FSIS considered both BSE and FMD risk in its evaluation 
process for meat products currently proposed for importation into the 
United States from Slovakia.\1\ Although Slovakia would be listed in 
FSIS' regulations as eligible to export meat products to the United 
States, FSIS' regulations that list countries eligible to export 
products of cattle, sheep, swine, and goats to the United States do not 
authorize the entry of products that are ineligible for importation 
into the United States because they are from countries in which certain 
contagious and communicable diseases, such as FMD, exist as provided in 
9 CFR part 94 (see 9 CFR 327.2(b)). Meat products must comply with all 
U.S. requirements prior to entry. Before a shipment of meat or meat 
products may be presented for re-inspection at the port-of entry by 
FSIS,

[[Page 6555]]

it must have first met the requirements of both the U.S. Customs 
Service and APHIS.
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    \1\ Currently, the one establishment that would be certified to 
export meat food products from Slovakia to the United States intends 
to export only pork products.
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    APHIS is responsible for keeping animal diseases, such as BSE and 
FMD, out of the country. Under Title 9, part 94 of its regulations (9 
CFR 94), APHIS sets forth restrictions on the importation of any fresh, 
frozen, and chilled meat, meat products, and certain other edible 
products from countries in which certain animal diseases exist. Those 
products that APHIS has restricted from entering the United States 
because of animal disease conditions in the country of origin will be 
refused entry before reaching an FSIS import inspection facility.
    FSIS and APHIS work closely together to ensure that meat and meat 
products imported into the United States comply with the regulatory 
requirements of both agencies. The agencies have established procedures 
for communication to ensure that products that APHIS has restricted 
from entering the United States because of animal disease concerns are 
refused entry into the United States.
    For the reasons discussed above, FSIS believes that sufficient 
controls are in place to ensure that listing Slovakia as eligible to 
export meat and meat products processed in Slovakia will not pose a BSE 
or FMD risk to the United States.
    Comment: Several commenters, all individual consumers, opposed the 
importation of beef from any foreign country into the United States due 
to general concerns about the safety of foreign beef.
    Response: Meat and meat products exported to the United States from 
another nation must meet equivalent safety standards applied to meat 
and meat products produced in the United States. FSIS makes 
determinations of equivalence by evaluating whether foreign food 
regulatory systems have in place the appropriate level of protection to 
meet the equivalent level of food safety as provided by the U.S. 
domestic system. Thus, while foreign food regulatory systems need not 
be identical to the U.S. system, they must employ equivalent sanitary 
measures that provide the same level of protection against food hazards 
as is achieved domestically. Beef and beef products from foreign 
countries that do not comply with these requirements are ineligible for 
importation into the United States.
    As discussed above, only one pork processing establishment in 
Slovakia has requested certification to export meat products to the 
United States. Furthermore, beef and beef products are among the 
products that are ineligible for importation into the United States 
under 9 CFR part 94 of APHIS' regulations. Thus, at this time, Slovakia 
will not be exporting beef to the United States.
    Comment: One commenter objected to the importation of live cattle 
into the United States until the United States has a ``* * * rigid 
inspection system set up [that] is fool proof against any bioterrorism 
attack.''
    Response: This comment is outside the scope of this rulemaking. 
This final rule does not affect the importation of live cattle from 
Slovakia into the United States. The importation of live cattle from 
Slovakia into the United States is prohibited by APHIS under 9 CFR 
94.18(a)(1).

Executive Order 12988

    This final rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, 
Civil Justice Reform. If this final rule is adopted: (1) All State and 
local laws and regulations that are inconsistent with this rule will be 
preempted; (2) no retroactive effect will be given to this rule; and 
(3) administrative proceedings will not be required before parties may 
file suit in court challenging this rule.

Executive Order 12866 and Regulatory Flexibility Act

    This final rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12866. It 
has been determined to be non-significant, for purposes of E.O. 12866, 
and therefore, has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB).
    There is only one establishment in Slovakia that has applied to 
export meat products to the United States. This establishment plans to 
export non-heat treated shelf stable pork products, such as sausages 
and salami, and non-shelf stable cooked pork products, such as 
pasteurized hams and specialty cured, cooked, and smoked meat products. 
U.S. imports from this establishment are expected to total 520 tons per 
year.
    U.S. firms currently export no meat products and only a small 
amount of poultry products to Slovakia. Table A presents the most 
updated information currently available of U.S. exports of poultry and 
pork products to Slovakia from 1994 to 2000. Poultry exports were 
highest in 1994, before declining and eventually falling to zero in 
1996. Poultry exports reappeared again in 1998, but again at relatively 
low levels.
    Table A also reports U.S. exports of pork products to Slovakia. 
Between 1994 and 2000, U.S. firms exported pork products to Slovakia 
only once, in 1994. Since then, the U.S. has not had any exports of 
meat products to Slovakia.
    This final rule could begin to reopen trade between the United 
States and Slovakia. During much of the mid-1990's, many emerging 
democratic nations faced substantial economic obstacles. Listing 
Slovakia as a country eligible to export meat and meat products to the 
United States could begin the process of reacquainting Slovakia with 
U.S. firms.
    Expected benefits from this rule would generally accrue to 
consumers from an increased choice of meat products in the marketplace. 
The costs of this final rule will accrue primarily to producers in the 
form of greater competition from Slovakia. However, the volume of trade 
stimulated by this rule is expected to be very small and is likely to 
have little effect on supply and farm-level prices.
    In addition to this action, FSIS considered the option of not 
listing Slovakia as eligible to export meat and meat products to the 
United States. This alternative was rejected however, because FSIS 
found that the Slovakian meat inspection system complies with all the 
requirements of the FMIA and FSIS regulations for exporting processed 
meat and meat products to the United States.

 Table A.--U.S. Exports of Poultry and Pork Products to Slovakia, 1994-
                                  2000
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                                                                Average
             Calendar year                Quantity    Value    price per
                                           (tons)                 ton
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Poultry:
  1994.................................        283   $354,000   $1250.88
  1995.................................         22     20,000     909.09
  1996.................................          0       0.00         NA
  1997.................................          0       0.00         NA
  1998.................................         68     68,000    1000.00
  1999.................................         24     14,000     583.30
  2000.................................         69     55,000     797.10
Pork:
  1994.................................         38     39,480    1038.95
  1995.................................          0       0.00         NA
  1996.................................          0       0.00         NA
  1997.................................          0       0.00         NA
  1998.................................          0       0.00         NA
  1999.................................          0       0.00         NA
  2000.................................          0       0.00        NA
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Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Effect on Small Entities

    The Administrator, FSIS, has made an initial determination that 
this final rule will not have a significant impact on a substantial 
number of small entities, as defined by the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
(5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). This final rule adds Slovakia to the list of 
countries eligible to export meat and meat products to the United 
States. Only one establishment in Slovakia has applied to

[[Page 6556]]

export product to the United States. This establishment plans to export 
approximately 520 tons of non-heat treated shelf stable pork products 
and non-shelf stable cooked pork products to the United States per 
year. Because the volume of pork products exported from Slovakia to the 
United States is expected to be very small, this final rule is not 
likely have much of an effect on supply and prices. Therefore, this 
final rule is not expected to have a significant impact on small 
domestic entities that produce these types of products.

Paperwork Requirements

    No new paperwork requirements are associated with this final rule. 
A foreign country that wants to export meat products to the United 
States is required to provide information to FSIS to certify that its 
inspection system provides standards equivalent to those of the United 
States and that the legal authority for the system and its implementing 
regulations are equivalent to those of the United States before it may 
start exporting such product to the United States. FSIS collects this 
information one time only. FSIS gave Slovakia questionnaires asking for 
detailed information about the country's inspection practices and 
procedures to assist the country in organizing its materials. This 
information collection was approved under OMB number 0583-0094. This 
final rule contains no other paperwork requirements.

Additional Public Notification

    Public awareness of all segments of rulemaking and policy 
development is important. Consequently, in an effort to ensure that the 
public and in particular minorities, women, and persons with 
disabilities, are aware of this final rule, FSIS will announce it on-
line through the FSIS Web page located at http://www.fsis.usda.gov.

    The Regulations.gov Web site is the central online rulemaking 
portal of the United States government. It is being offered as a public 
service to increase participation in the Federal government's 
regulatory activities. FSIS participates in Regulations.gov and will 
accept comments on documents published on the site. The site allows 
visitors to search by keyword or Department or Agency for rulemakings 
that allow for public comment. Each entry provides a quick link to a 
comment form so that visitors can type in their comments and submit 
them to FSIS. The Web site is located at http://www.regulations.gov.

    FSIS also will make copies of this Federal Register publication 
available through the FSIS Constituent Update, which is used to provide 
information regarding FSIS policies, procedures, regulations, Federal 
Register notices, FSIS public meetings, recalls, and other types of 
information that could affect or would be of interest to our 
constituents and stakeholders. The update is communicated via Listserv, 
a free e-mail subscription service consisting of industry, trade, and 
farm groups, consumer interest groups, allied health professionals, 
scientific professionals, and other individuals who have requested to 
be included. The update also is available on the FSIS web page. Through 
Listserv and the web page, FSIS is able to provide information to a 
much broader, more diverse audience.

List of Subjects 9 CFR Part 327

    Imports, Meat and meat products.


0
For the reasons set out in the preamble 9 CFR part 327 is amended as 
follows:

PART 327--IMPORTED PRODUCTS

0
1. The authority citation for part 327 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 21 U.S.C. 601-695; 7 CFR 2.18, 2.53.

0
2. Section 327.2 is amended by adding ``Slovakia'' with footnote 1 in 
alphabetical order to the list of countries in paragraph (b) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  327.2  Eligibility of foreign countries for importation of 
products into the United States.

* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    Slovakia \1\
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    \1\ May export to the United States only processed meat food 
products derived from animals slaughtered under Federal inspection 
in the United States, or in a country eligible to export meat and 
meat products to the United States.

    Done at Washington, DC, on: February 3, 2005.
Barbara J. Masters,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 05-2389 Filed 2-7-05; 8:45 am]