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Valley Rancher Concerned About New Cattle Branding Rules

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MERCEDES – A Rio Grande Valley cattle rancher thinks new U.S. Department of Agriculture rules for cattle branding are a mistake. He says it makes it too easy for Mexican cattle to be imported.

The USDA is allowing Mexican cattle exporters to use an "M" brand on their cattle to reduce errors and streamline the process of moving the animals through border ports. One Mercedes rancher thinks it's bad news. 

Benton England is a fourth-generation rancher. His family has been doing business in Mercedes for more than 100 years. He says the family ranch began importing Mexican cattle a little over two years ago. In many ways, this has been beneficial.  

"Definitely on the breeding side. We got new genetics and different genetics outside of what we can purchase here that we can bring new blood in," he explains. 

But England is not a fan of the USDA rule allowing Mexico to simply use the "M" brand rather than an "MX"  or "Mx" on spayed heifers and breeding cattle. He believes this will speed up the process of moving cattle in intake pens such as this one in Pharr.

England says he thinks the more Mexican cattle we import, the more damage it does to the quality of the overall product.

"When you're flooding the market with beef like from Mexico, you're flooding it with inferior beef compared to what we have in the United States. Our quality is the best in the world," he notes.

England says the Mexican government does not have the same testing standards for cattle as we do in America. This, he says, will hurt profits for cattle farmers in the US.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to the USDA to find out why the changes were made. The USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service released the following statement and it reads, in part: 

The Mexican government wanted to clear up confusion at border entry points. The confusion is over the different brands used by Mexican cattle exporters rather than one brand, "M."

England says if it is easier for Mexican cattle to come into the U.S., people here will be purchasing more inferior quality Mexican beef. He says we have to remember this beef is what we feed our families.

The USDA adds you can always address any concerns you have with the branding requirement with them. It has other branding rule proposals that you can speak out on as well. For the next three weeks, you can send the government agency your feelings on the branding of Mexican cattle at USDA.gov.

Though the process may seem easy, branding can have its complications. England says branding is an effective way to avoid theft because the brand serves as an identification mark of the animal's ownership or lineage.

He adds, however, that a small-sized brand can lead to blotching and would require re-branding. This can lead to questions of whether they were branded properly and even rejection for import or export. 

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