News Releases

Senators Urge USDA to Maintain Ban on Canadian Cattle Imports

Apr 07 2004

In letter to Veneman Murray, others warn: Don't put industry livelihood, consumer confidence in jeopardy

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray today joined six other senators in asking USDA Secretary Ann Veneman to withdraw a Department proposal that could allow live cattle from Canada to enter the United States as early as this spring. Today was the last day for public comment on USDA's proposed rule.



The proposal by USDA would list Canada - the country of origin for the single case of Mad Cow disease discovered in the U.S. in December of 2003 and a case in Alberta, Canada last May – as a country with "minimal risk" and could allow imports of Canadian beef into the U.S. as early as this spring.



"While USDA appears determined to significantly increase its BSE testing, we are concerned that you are not requiring Canada to meet the same high standards and have, in fact, placed a much greater burden on U.S. cattle producers than on those who are the source of the contamination," the Senators said in the letter to Veneman.



The full text of the letter to Secretary Veneman follows:



April 7, 2004



The Honorable Ann Veneman
Secretary
United States Department of Agriculture
14th Street & Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250



Dear Madam Secretary:



We write to comment upon and request that you withdraw the proposed United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that would lift the ban on imports of live cattle from Canada as well as extend and expand existing imports of beef products. We believe it is premature to lift the ban on imports of live cattle from a country with two documented cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease, diagnosed within a seven-month period and urge you not to do so.



As you know, USDA/APHIS placed a total ban on imports of live Canadian ruminants and ruminant products on May 29, 2003, after BSE was first discovered in a Canadian cow on May 20, 2003. We believe that action was necessary to prevent the introduction of BSE into the United States. However, we are deeply concerned that subsequent actions by USDA/APHIS are placing U.S. consumers and cattle producers at risk. The United States is the largest beef-producing nation in the world, producing the best beef under the very best of conditions. It should not become the dumping ground for the beef and cattle that no other major beef and cattle importing country except Mexico will accept.



It is apparent from developments over the past month that USDA policy regarding control of BSE is in a state of flux. In just the past several weeks, USDA has dramatically increased the level of BSE testing in U.S. cattle. According to press reports, the number of cattle targeted for testing has gone from about 20,000 head of cattle to 40,000, then to more than 200,000, and to possibly more than 400,000 head. While USDA appears determined to significantly increase its BSE testing, we are concerned that you are not requiring Canada to meet the same high standards and have, in fact, placed a much greater burden on U.S. cattle producers than on those who are the source of the contamination. We are further concerned that Canadian BSE control measures are far less rigorous than those required by USDA, particularly given that BSE was discovered in Canadian cattle herds. We understand that Canada intends to test only 8,000 cattle this year.



While no native case of BSE has been discovered in the U.S., USDA actions have increased the cost burden on our producers for BSE prevention. Such actions have not only made the U.S. less competitive in the global market from a cost standpoint, but have unduly increased the concerns of our trading partners over the safety of U.S. beef, even though there is no scientific evidence that BSE exists in our native cattle herds.



The proposed USDA/APHIS rules creating a "BSE minimal-risk region" do not conform with international standards for "minimal BSE risk" set by the world organization for animal health – OIE. Under OIE criteria, Canada is a "moderate BSE risk" country. We are deeply concerned that the proposed regulations, which would permanently weaken the health and safety standard for importation of live cattle and beef into the U.S., could result in imports from other countries with cattle herds that conclusive scientific evidence shows are infected with BSE. We do not believe USDA should lower U.S. standards to allow imports of cattle and beef from countries that do not meet our current high standards for detection and prevention of animal diseases. We urge you not to abandon the USDA/APHIS mission of protecting and safeguarding America's borders and ensuring that the health of America's agriculture is not threatened.



We urge you to immediately withdraw the proposed rule to weaken APHIS regulations that currently restrict imports of cattle and beef from countries, such as Canada, that have BSE.

Respectfully,





Senator Tom Daschle,
Senator Herb Kohl,
Senator Patty Murray,
Senator Byron Dorgan,
Senator Jeff Bingaman,
Senator Tim Johnson,
Senator Hillary Clinton