Iowa Public Television


Beef Ban Debate Continues

posted on January 7, 2005

In addition to discussion on the re-opening of the Canadian border, Johanns was asked about the potential for prying open the Japanese market to U.S. beef. The incoming Secretary said a deal with the Japanese is overdue ... and promised to give the situation his "immediate attention" once he's in office.

Breaking down that barrier will be a tall order. The beef trade has become fundamentally linked to Mad Cow disease. Revelations this week that four brands of Canadian cattle feed likely included cow or other ruminant parts don't make negotiations any easier. The feeding of animal parts is a major risk factor in the spread of Mad Cow disease. That's why many countries have banned the practice.

In Congress, meanwhile, the debate over re-opening the Canadian border is just beginning to heat up.

Beef Ban Debate Continues For more than a year and a half, authorities on both sides of the border have been debating whether or not it is safe to begin importing Canadian beef. As the third case of Mad Cow in North America was being confirmed, the USDA was making clear its position on why it would be safe to implement a proposed rule to open the border. The move has only served to further galvanize those in opposition.

North Dakota Democratic Congressman Earl Pomeroy has proposed legislation to stop the proposed rule from taking effect. Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana is planning to take his concerns directly to newly appointed Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.

As evidence that it would be safe to lift the Canadian beef ban, USDA officials are citing standards set by the World Health Organization. Those standards indicate the possibility of importing a cow infected with Mad Cow from Canada are low.

Joining the USDA in support of the proposed rule is the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. NCBA president Jan Lyons has stated that the recently discovered older dairy cow posed no risk to the meat supply.

If the ban is allowed to be lifted on March 7, only cattle under 30 months of age will be allowed into the US and all other inspection rules will remain in effect.

Before the discovery of the first North American case of Mad Cow in May of 2003, roughly 1.5 billion U.S. dollars went across the border into the pockets of Canadian beef producers.

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed rule.

Tags: agriculture animals beef Canada diseases food safety livestock Mad Cow meat news trade