USDA moves to reopen Canadian border to cattle

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WASHINGTON – After extensive risk reviews, USDA is moving to allow imports of live feeder cattle under 30 months of age from Canada and other regions with effective bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) prevention and detection measures.
The rule takes effect March 7. The border has been closed since May 2003.
USDA’s rule removes limits on the import of certain animals and commodities from minimal-risk regions besides Canada.
Suspect animal. On the heels of the rule’s release, Canadian officials announced Dec. 29 the finding of a BSE ‘suspect’ animal, which is their term for inconclusive, according to Ron DeHaven, administrator of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
The suspected animal is a 10-year-old dairy cow and was identified through the national surveillance program.
Testing was conducted after the animal was identified as a downer, one of the high-risk categories targeted by the surveillance program. (See related article.)
The case was confirmed positive Jan. 2, and will not alter the implementation of the U.S. rule that recognizes Canada as a minimal-risk region, DeHaven said.
Risks. Prior to being able to import to the United States, each country must undergo a thorough risk assessment.
Guidelines established by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) govern trade in cattle of any age, as well as beef and many other cattle products, even from countries that are considered to be at high risk for BSE.
Canada will be the first country recognized as a minimal-risk region. It will be eligible to export to the United States live cattle under the age of 30 months, as well as certain other animals and products.
Live cattle imported from Canada under this rule, which is over 500 pages, will be subject to restrictions designed to ensure that they are slaughtered by the time they reach 30 months of age.
These include ear identification and a permanent brand to indicate their origin.
Branded. John Clifford, deputy administrator for veterinary services for APHIS, said all animals imported will be branded with a C, upside-down V and an N on the hip for identification. Canadian producers would be responsible for branding and tagging their cattle before shipment.
Restrictions also require them to move in sealed containers to a feedlot or to slaughter, and not allowing them to move to more than one feedlot while in the United States.
Rechecked. When Canadian ruminants and ruminant products are presented for importation into the United States, they become subject to domestic safeguards as well.
Beef imports that have already undergone Canadian inspection are also subject to re-inspection at ports of entry by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure only eligible products are imported.
USDA conducted a risk analysis for Canadian ruminants and ruminant products introducing BSE into the United States and concluded Canada meets the requirements for a minimal-risk region.
The rule also outlines conditions under which sheep, goats, cervids and camelids can be imported, as well as meat and certain other products and byproducts from these animals.
More to come. Other countries or regions that meet the minimal-risk conditions will be considered in the future.
Positive viewpoint. “We must normalize trade with Canada in order for our industry to move forward in the global marketplace, expand our ability to sell U.S. beef to foreign consumers and put more dollars in the pockets of U.S. producers,” said Jan Lyons, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Contrast. At the same time, National Farmers Union president Dave Frederickson spoke out against the opening.
“Seventy percent of countries with confirmed cases of BSE have discovered subsequent cases in the months and years that follow. For example, Japan has now had approximately 15 cases since the discovery of the first case in 2001,” Frederickson said.
“The U.S. cattle industry and consumers have too much at stake to rush to re-open the border at this time.”
Related links:
USDA APHIS Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
Canadian Food Inspection Agency

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