After the 2003 discovery of mad cow disease in a Washington state animal that was born in Canada, the U.S. allowed limited imports of Canadian beef. Last month though, USDA opened the border to all Canadian beef, including live cattle born after March 1, 1999.
The Montana-based rancher group R-CALF claims the latest finding supports its argument that the U.S. should continue its ban of older Canadian cattle.
Calls also were heard this week from members of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. But rather than focus on trade policy, these petitions called for reforms to the beef checkoff.
The checkoff program, responsible for the highly recognized "Beef, It's What's for Dinner" campaign, has not seen a significant change in over 20 years. Some state chapters of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association would like to see Congress double the checkoff to $2 a head. The increase would be used to develop new beef products and cover increases in advertising costs.
Another proposed change would allow cattle producers to vote on whether or not to keep the program. In 2005 the Supreme Court, on a vote of 6-to-3, ruled that the government has the right to force producers to pay the checkoff fee.
John McBride, Livestock Marketing Association: "Cattlemen do not loose their constitutional rights just because they happen to be cattlemen and have to labor under the burden of this checkoff."
A third proposed change allows checkoff dollars to be used to promote U.S. beef. Currently no country can be specified in promotions. Of the $80 million in checkoff funds collected annually, nearly 10% come from foreign producers who export beef to the United States.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association plans to vote on the proposals in February then lobby Congress to approve any changes.