September 1, 2003



Several Months before US to Allow in Live Canada Cattle


It will take at least "several months" for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to open up the U.S. border to live Canadian cattle, USDA Undersecretary Bill Hawks said Friday.


"We're starting the rule-making process and we've got to allow for an adequate (public) comment period and analyze all the comments and make ... decisions," Hawks said.


USDA has begun issuing permits for Canadian exporters to ship boneless beef derived from cattle that are under 30 month of age, but the ban on live cattle remains.


The U.S. banned all Canadian beef and cattle on May 20 when a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was discovered on an Alberta farm. USDA Secretary Ann Veneman announced on Aug. 8 that the ban was being eased on some Canadian beef and she pledged to begin crafting a new trade rule that will eventually allow cattle in.


Hawks, head of USDA's marketing and regulatory programs, told OsterDowJones: "Under a normal rule-making process, I would say that it will take some several months ... to address that."


Some USDA officials had originally expected the department to publish a proposed rule on Canadian cattle imports in the Federal Register in the first week of September, but Hawks said that will not likely be possible.


He said: "We have begun the process, but we're not ready to publish in the Federal Register next week."


Earlier this week Veneman said that, at first, only cattle under 30 months old will be allowed in.


"We are taking this in a two-track process," she said. "One for lower- risk animals under 30 months. And the older animals will be a longer regulatory process ... We know these animals under 30 months (old) are at very low risk."
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