October 22, 2003
US Cattle Ban on Canada Not Likely To Be Lifted
Top agriculture officials on both sides of the border are dismissing a news report that live Canadian cattle could be moving into the U.S. by December, an article in Tuesday's Globe and Mail national newspaper said.
"I would be very, very surprised," said Gilles Lavoie, director general of Agriculture Canada's marketing services branch.
CBC Newsworld reported Monday that the U.S. border was poised to accept cattle under the age of 30 months, citing the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. That would end a ban on live animals imposed after bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, was detected in an Alberta cow last May.
Canadian officials have been expecting a proposed rule change outlining what it will take to get live Canadian cattle into the U.S. Lavoie said once the wording of that proposal is made public, there is a minimum of 30 days for interested parties to react.
"We don't know the length of the consultation period and then they will have to take time to study and produce a final set of rules," Lavoie said from Ottawa. "To say all of that can be done with 30 days?"
Federal Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief spoke with his U.S. counterpart on Monday and received no assurances that Canadian cattle will be allowed into the U.S. by year's end, the article said.
Vanclief said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman told him nothing new about when the process for accepting cattle exports would be complete. Vanclief noted that process usually takes up to 18 months.
A spokeswoman for the USDA also said it was too soon to say if the rule change is coming this week, according to the article. But USDA spokeswoman Julie Quick said it's the USDA that will issue the regulation, not another government department.
"Once we issue the proposed rules then there will be a comment period that can range from 30 to 90 days," Quick said from Washington.
"We expect to go through a very thoughful and deliberative process as we read through those comments and then work to prepare a final rule, which we would then issue before any live cattle could actually come across."
Cindy McCreath of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association in the Globe and Mail article also had doubts any exports will move until the first quarter of 2004. She says this speculation could be hard on financially tapped producers who are grasping at good news.
"It gets people's hopes way up and then of course they get dashed because it's not a process that's going to happen overnight," McCreath said.
Alberta agriculture minister Shirley McClellan was also cautious about the report. "We're hopeful, but until I see it in black and white that's as far as I want to go," she said.
Talks on getting the border reopened to live cattle have continued since the U.S. first lifted its ban on some cuts of boneless Canadian beef this summer. The first shipments went out in September.
There have been indications in recent weeks that a proposed ruling is close, but no details have been released.
It's been five months since Canada's cattle industry was shattered by the discovery of BSE in a northern Alberta black Angus breeder cow. More than 30 countries closed their borders to Canadian beef May 20.