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From: TSS ()
Subject: SDA responds to concerns about Canadian cattle imports
Date: February 21, 2007 at 10:00 am PST

SDA responds to concerns about Canadian cattle imports

By Tom Johnston on 2/20/2007 for

Responding to a media report that documents obtained by Washington cattlemen show hundreds of cattle from Canada are entering the United States without government-required health papers or identification tags, USDA officials indicated that no significant violations have occurred.

Andrea McNally of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's legislative and public Affairs division told that her agency is "reviewing the concerns that have been brought to our attention in Washington state." (See Group says Canadian cattle improperly imported into United States on, Feb. 19, 2007.)

"As we are reviewing these records, we have discovered that a large portion are minor record-keeping problems that are not material to the entry requirements of the cattle," she said. "Nonetheless, we are looking closely to make sure the balance of the paperwork shows proper documentation, and we will respond according to our findings."

Canada's reaction

Meanwhile, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association is questioning both the Chicago Tribune article and the motives of the Cattle Producers of Washington.

John Masswohl, director of government and international relations for CCA, told that a different set of rules apply to those Canadian cattle imports used for immediate slaughter and those going to feedlots.

Masswohl explained that the USDA only requires that Canadian slaughter cattle go from the border to the slaugherhouse in a sealed truck. That these cattle have identification papers when they arrive is the result of Canada's own export requirements, he said.

Meanwhile, USDA stipulates that Canadian feeder cattle must be less than 30 months old, can only be fed in one feedlot and must be slaughtered before reaching 30 months of age, must be branded with a symbol signifying they are from Canada, and must have an ear tag. However, the ear tag, a point not made in the newspaper article, can either be an electronic device or simply have a bar code, he said.

Considering Canada exported just less than 1 million cattle to the United States last year, Masswohl added, some slip-ups probably do occur. However, they often have simple remedies, such as simply replacing an animal's ear tag after it has fallen off during transport in a truck. "Ultimately, this requirement is not for food safety, is not for animal health, and does not prevent the spread of [bovine spongiform encephalopathy]," he said. "We just need to know that when we need to track down an animal we've got the trail to do it."

Opposition's propaganda?

Also of note, Masswohl said, is the Cattle Producers of Washington's affiliation with Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, a group that "not only wants to prevent the border from opening further, but also to fully close the border to any cattle from Canada, any cattle from Mexico, or cattle from any other country. Forgive me if I take the story with a little grain of salt."

The Cattle Producers of Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


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