March 1, 2004



Canada Ready To Relax Ban US Feeder Cattle Imports


Canada is set to decide next week whether to change the rules that prevent imports of U.S. feeder cattle to Western Canada for part of the year, a veterinary official said on Thursday.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is examining about 30 comments on the proposed changes from industry groups, provincial governments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Ken Orchard, an official from the agency's trade section.

"We hope to be able to put forth a recommendation to (federal Agriculture Minister Bob Speller) next week," Orchard said.

U.S. cattle producers and politicians have long complained about the rules, designed to prevent the spread of anaplasmosis and bluetongue diseases.

The rules restrict imports into western Canadian feedlots to the winter season, and only allow imports from nine states thought to be at low risk for the diseases.

Canada is considered free of the diseases, spread by ticks and flies. The diseases are not hazardous to human health, according to information on the CFIA's Web site.

But bluetongue can cause death in sheep and goats, and anaplasmosis can make cattle sickly.

Orchard said new studies show that the risk of U.S. cattle bringing the disease into Canada is lower than scientists used to believe.

But sheep and goat producers are concerned a bluetongue outbreak could affect their export status, Orchard said.

"There wasn't a clear-cut consensus (in the comments), for sure," Orchard said.

Industry sources on both sides of the border have said Canada needs to open up trade to U.S. feeder cattle year-round before the United States will consider lifting its ban on young Canadian cattle.

The U.S. ban was put in place nine months ago after Canada found its first homegrown case of mad cow disease. Before the ban, Canada relied on export markets, particularly the United States, to buy 60 percent of its cattle and beef.

The trade ban has caused massive losses to Canadian farmers.

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