USDA Border Plan Draws Fire

Proposal lifts ban on import of Canadian cattle born after March 1, 1999.

Published on: Feb 28, 2007

Some North Dakota ag leaders object to USDA's plan to open the Canadian border to live cattle imports again.

Roger Johnson, North Dakota commissioner of agriculture, says it is "ill advised.'

Woody Barth, representing the North Dakota Farmers Union, testified says that "American producers and consumers deserve better."

Both spoke at a field hearing about USDA's new proposal to allow Canadian cattle born after March 1, 1999 to be imported into the U.S., even though a new case of mad cow disease has been reported in Canada.

Johnson's comments

"USDA should not implement this rule until it can assure domestic and foreign markets of the origin of our beef products," Johnson said. "Finding another BSE-infected cow from Canada in the U.S. could be just as devastating to our domestic market as it has been to our export markets. We must have mandatory, country-of-origin labeling fully implemented before USDA further weakens our standards on Canadian beef imports."

Johnson said if Canadian cattle over 30 months of age are allowed into the U.S., it must only be under greatly increased security measures.

"Those animals must be permanently identified with an official tag and a CAN brand and must be strictly segregated by USDA through the entire slaughtering process," he said. "USDA needs to start leading by example in all matters associated with animal health. Its primary concern should be its own current inability to quickly and accurately trace all animals that enter the U.S. and ultimately our food supply."

Unlike USDA, Canada is taking action to detect and prevent the spread of BSE, Johnson said.

"Canada is clearly admitting it has a BSE problem. Through regulatory actions, USDA appears to want to bring Canada's problem into the US and amplify our risk. USDA's overall lack of responsible actions with respect to BSE in Canada has already decreased the status of the U.S. cattle herd in the eyes of our trading partners."

Barth's views

Barth, too, stressed the importance of mandatory country of origin labeling. He also poined out that four of Canada's 10 cases of BSE, including the most recent confirmed on Feb. 8, were found in animals born after March 1.

"Until our neighbors to the north can demonstrate their BSE problem is under control and mandatory COOL is implement, USDA should withdraw its proposed rule (to open the border).

Johnson's and Bart's comments were supplied by their offices.