USDA may relax import restrictions on Mexican pork

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking to relax import restrictions on some Mexican pork that were put in place to prevent pigs with swine fever from coming into the country.

The USDA said Monday it is looking to establish new safeguards for Mexican farmers that raise and slaughter pigs, which are intended to limit the spread of swine fever among pigs. 

Farmers that follow these proposed rules would be allowed to export pork to the U.S.

"The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States 

Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the importation of animals and animal products into the United States to guard against the introduction of animal diseases not currently present or prevalent in this country," the agency wrote in the Federal Register.

Swine fever is a highly contagious disease that is spread amongst pigs, which can die from it in as little as 15 days. The USDA has rules in place to prohibit or restrict the import of Mexican pork, which are intended to prevent the disease from spreading to pigs in the U.S.

But the USDA is considering exemptions for farmers in some Mexican states that follow the agency's new sanitary and biosecurity requirements.

"We would also provide safeguards against commingling of the swine and the pork and pork products with animals and products that do not meet our proposed requirements," the agency wrote. 

Furthermore, these Mexican farms would be subject to USDA inspections.

"This proposed rule would relieve some restrictions on the importation of pork and pork 

products from Mexico while continuing to protect against the introduction of classical swine fever into the United States," the agency wrote.

The public has 60 days to comment.