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From: TSS (
Subject: Re: Canada and U.S. politicians to hold BSE meeting
Date: August 29, 2004 at 6:59 pm PST

In Reply to: Canada and U.S. politicians to hold BSE meeting posted by TSS on August 27, 2004 at 3:46 pm:

Mitchell argues case for opening border to cattle

NEW YORK (CP) - Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell came away empty-handed Saturday after arguing the case for reopening the Canada-U.S. border to live cattle exports in a meeting with his American counterpart.

Mitchell travelled to New York City specifically to meet U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman face to face for the first time and described her as "very businesslike" as they discussed the mad cow crisis that has been crushing the Canadian cattle industry for 16 months.

In a brief interview after the meeting, Mitchell said he argued the Canadian case based on science, but it wasn't clear how well his position was received by Veneman, in New York for this week's Republican convention.

"She indicated to me she wanted to see the regulatory process moving forward in the States," to speed up resolution of the situation, Mitchell said.

The fact that Washington is moving so slowly toward reopening the border makes a "made-in-Canada" solution all the more important, he added.

"It's clear there's no specific end dates to the American review process."

The United States and other countries closed their borders to Canadian beef exports after a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, was discovered in May 2003 on a farm in northern Alberta.

The U.S. started allowing some cuts of beef across the border last September, but continues to ban imports of live Canadian cattle, creating a backlog of beef and driving down prices.

Another case of BSE was found last December in a cow in Washington State, which has complicated matters for American ranchers threatened with the loss of some of their own markets, such as Japan.

But some Canadian producers suspect part of the reason the U.S. seems to be dragging its heels on resolving the border issue is to protect its own beef industry.

Industry groups such as the Canadian Cattlemen's Association have developed long-term plans for coping with the mad cow crisis, which include emergency cash aid from governments as well as initiatives for boosting slaughter capacity, loan guarantees and market expansion to reduce reliance on the U.S.

Some of those have captured Mitchell's imagination as a way to help cope with the border closure.

Ottawa has started to drop broad hints that as the crisis drags on, more emergency aid could be coming for the cash-strapped industry.

Ralph Goodale, the federal finance minister from southern Saskatchewan, has been suggesting recently that he might shake open Ottawa's piggy bank.

In March, at the time of the last federal budget, Ottawa announced a $1-billion farm aid package that included $680 million in relief for cattle producers. That also included a pledge from Goodale of more help if the border remained closed "for a protracted period."

Goodale has recently repeated that pledge to help cope with mad cow - "a serious issue not just for producers but a serious issue for the country."

However, he hasn't said just how much aid might be made available.

"I'm not in a position now to put a dollar figure on the situation," said Goodale.

"But we've got to be prepared to stand by our producers through this incredibly difficult period which is not at all of their making."


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