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Cattle producers upset over USDA plan to open border to older Canadian beef

03 March 2007

US - A large group of livestock producers testified at a U.S. Senate Hearing that a proposed USDA rule opening the borders to older Canadian cattle jeopardizes U.S. beef export markets and dumps more cases of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) on the U.S.
“I think it's time we implement COOL (country-of-origin labeling,” says Kelly Froelich, a cattleman from Selfridge, N.D. And Allen Lund, a cattleman from southcentral North Dakota, agreed that COOL could help distinguish U.S. cattle in the marketplace.

“Still, I'm opposed to opening the Canadian borders. If this rule is allowed, we are lowering our standards. It didn't matter to our export markets that the cow (with BSE found in Washington state) came from Canada. It's just too early to swing open the doors,” Lund said.

U.S. Sen Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Interstate Commerce, Trade and Tourism, held a Senate field hearing Feb. 21 at Bismarck State College.

A panel of experts was there to weigh in on the proposed rule including USDA administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Dr. Ron DeHaven; North Dakota Ag Commissioner Roger Johnson, State Veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller, R-CALF USA co-founder and past president Leo McDonnell, North Dakota Stockmen's Association President Mark Huseth; and North Dakota Farmer's Union President Woody Barth.

DeHaven said the USDA rule would allow the importation of beef from Canadian animals over 30 months of age, and live Canadian cattle born after March of 1999.

As soon as the USDA comment period ends in two weeks on March 12, DeHaven said the agency will examine the submitted testimony and make a decision.

“No, we don't have to go through Congress to implement this rule. At the same time, an organization could slap us with a lawsuit that would stop us, such as R-CALF did,” DeHaven said. “This rule is based strictly on sound science.”

Dorgan commented that he did not understand why USDA is “in a hurry” to implement the rule.

“USDA estimated that 1.3 million head of cattle will be imported (into the U.S. from Canada)....It makes no sense for the USDA to allow 1.3 million Canadian beef in at a time when we have not been willing to implement COOL,” he said, adding that 35 countries accept U.S. beef, but not Canadian beef. “Our first responsibility is to our own producers.”

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Source: Farm & Ranch Guide


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