January 05, 2004


US Rule On Canadian Cattle Could Be Rewritten


The U.S. Department of Agriculture may write "an entirely new" proposal on how to declare Canada a minimal risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, and open the U.S. border to young cattle under 30 months of age, a USDA official said.


USDA unveiled the proposal on Oct. 31 and soon after opened it to public comment. The USDA will accept public feedback through Jan. 5.


Ron DeHaven, USDA's chief veterinarian, said the department is also considering leaving the current proposal intact but extending the deadline for public comments.


"This recent situation," DeHaven said about the discovery of BSE in the U.S., "has shed a new light on the whole situation."


DeHaven gave no details on what changes might be made to the rule if it is indeed rewritten.


Regardless of whether USDA extends the comment period, he stressed that the department will not enact rules on opening the U.S. border to Canadian live cattle until it has resolved the investigation into the U.S. case.


Canada first announced it had discovered a single BSE case on May 20, and the U.S. immediately banned all Canadian beef and cattle. On Aug. 8, the USDA eased the ban on some boneless beef products, which the U.S. continues to allow in from Canada.


DeHaven said: "One thing would be for certain - we would not make any determination in terms of a final rule (on cattle imports from Canada) without giving all due consideration to the new situation coming to light because of the finding that was positive in the state of Washington."


USDA Secretary Ann Veneman announced that a Holstein cow tested positive for BSE in the U.S. on Dec. 23. Since then, USDA has said it believes that cow was infected with the disease several years earlier in Canada and then exported to the U.S.