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From: TSS (
Date: August 4, 2004 at 7:36 pm PST

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Wed, 4 Aug 2004 21:23:31 -0500
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

######## Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #########

Meeting BSE testing quotas could be a problem, warns Alberta auditor general

EDMONTON (CP) - Canada could fail to meet its BSE testing quotas because
of the reluctance of farmers to take their downed, diseased, dead or
distressed cattle into testing laboratories.

Alberta Auditor General Fred Dunn said Wednesday that he has warned
provincial Agriculture Department officials that something needs to be
done quickly to encourage farmers to participate in the national and
provincial surveillance programs.

Failure to meet internationally set BSE testing quotas could prolong the
closure of the U.S. border to live Canadian cattle, he said.

"If the farmers do not respond professionally, if they don't respond
appropriately and rather hold the samples from you - i.e. just bury the
dead cow - than you run the risk of not getting sufficient (numbers) of
the higher-risk ones to test."

Dunn said Alberta Agriculture has to educate and compensate farmers in
order to get their support for a testing program that focuses on
high-risk animals over 30 months of age.

"If you don't meet those testing samples, it is almost like you have had
another BSE outbreak," Dunn said. "You could move the whole of the
country up to another level and your borders are therefore not going to

While the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) can't penalize
Canada for failing to perform adequate testing, it can drop Canada's
designation from minimal BSE risk to moderate BSE risk, which would put
any border opening decision in the lap of the World Trade Organization.

Dunn said his recommendation that Alberta Agriculture address the
problem was one of the most important in a 119-page report he released

"We understand the department is looking at various programs, but we're
not exactly sure what type of program they are going to come up with,"
Dunn said. "We made that suggestion earlier to them . . . and we're
waiting for some kind of program and action to take place in order to
ensure we can get this out in time."

Dunn said Alberta has to test 2,700 animals this year and 10,000 next
year. So far, the province has tested only about 900 animals.
Nationally, Canada has to test 8,000 animals this year and 30,000 in 2005.

Alberta Agriculture's assistant chief provincial veterinarian, Gerald
Hauer, said the province has to get cracking to meet the deadline.

"We are a little behind where we should be," he said. "In order to meet
our target by Dec. 31, there will have to be a major push on to get
those heads submitted."

He said producers are reluctant to have BSE diagnosed on their farms, so
rather than calling to have a head picked up for testing many are
disposing of the animal themselves.

"There is a reluctance to be that number 3 - that third case diagnosed
here," he said. "With the notoriety that happened with that first case,
there is a perceived reluctance out there."


Gary Little, Canadian Food Inspection Agency senior staff veterinarian,
said the agency is on track to meet the 2004 national testing quota.

"On a regional basis, hopefully we're going to meet them."

He said the agency is working with the provinces to increase
participation in the surveillance program. Incentives may include some
form of reimbursement for the costs of having the testing done.

Little said failing to meet the quotas will have a bigger impact on the
Canadian beef industry than if tests detected one or two more cases of BSE.

"If we were to get one or two more positive (tests) it wouldn't change
Canada's designation as a minimal risk country," he said. "There's no
expectation that any of the current trade access that we have now would
be affected."

"What we are concerned about is if we fail to increase our level of
surveillance, other countries will be able to make assumptions that will
be difficult to defend against. In terms of overall recovery, getting
our surveillance numbers in place will be very important to our
continuing to access foreign markets."

Alberta Agriculture Minister Shirley McClellan said meeting the testing
levels will be a challenge, but it has to be done.

"Indeed, to retain our status as a minimal risk, we have to meet those
testing requirements."

Previously, Alberta's testing labs had access to all the dead cattle
brought in for rendering. But since rendering companies have begun
charging a fee for picking up the dead stock, cash-strapped farmers have
stopped using the service.

Barry Glotman of West Coast Reduction said his company picks up only
half the cattle it did previously since it began charging four cents per
pound for the service because farmers are now disposing of the dead
animals themselves.

"Because the farmers are suffering so dramatically, they are unwilling
to pay the charge so they are not using the dead stock service," he
said. "They are just leaving the animals out in the field to rot."

Feedlot operator Rick Bonnett, who feeds about 17,000 cattle on his lot
about 90 kilometres south of Edmonton, said the issue is one of pure

"Since they put in that $70 a head for the rendering truck to pick up
dead animals, everybody said, "We're not going to spend any more money
on a dead horse,' " he said. "I have heard of some farmers just dragging
them out in the bush and leaving them for coyote bait, so I think we'll
have a real problem. There are lots of dead animals just lying around
the country."


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