Iowa Public Television


Canada Offers Bailout To Farmers Affected By BSE Cases

posted on March 26, 2004

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.

Once again this week, there were signs that the U.S. economy is on the mend.

Gross Domestic Product, considered by many economists to be the single most important measure of the domestic economy, grew by more than 4-percent in the 4th quarter of 2003.

But the job market continues to struggle. New claims for unemployment rose last week and Democrats are quick to point out that the economy has lost 2.2 million jobs since President Bush took office in January of 2001.

Adding to the angst are soaring fuel prices. As farmers prepare for spring planting, both gasoline and diesel fuels posted record highs this week.

For Americas ranchers, the concern this week was one of increased competition. As Canada lobbies the U.S. to reopen the border to live cattle, the Canadian government announced a bailout for its cattle producers.

Canada Offers Bailout To Farmers Affected By BSE Cases

At the beginning of the week, Canada's Prime Minister announced a $746 (M) million dollar bailout to Canadian beef producers adversely affected by the mad cow crisis. Funding will be delivered as a direct payment of up to $60 per head of cattle in a farm inventory as of December 31, 2003.

The announcement came as Alberta's Premier was in Washington to lobby U.S. officials to reopen the American border to live cattle from Canada.

But the bailout announcement did not sit well with U.S. cattle producers. U.S. ranchers warned they will launch a significant trade challenge to the Canadian government's bailout if the subsidies undercut U.S. beef sales.

Meanwhile, blame for North America's BSE cases may be linked to feed mills in Britain. Canadian officials say feed from the mills could have contained infectious protein from cattle imported from Britain. The feed likely was given to the animals just before Canada and the U.S. banned the use of cattle tissues in livestock feed in August of 1997.

If this finding withstands scrutiny by U.S. and Japanese experts, it will put an end to much of the uncertainty regarding the future safety of U.S. beef.

Despite the mad cow scare, which decimated the U.S. beef export markets as dozens of countries, including Japan, shut their borders to American beef .... officials say last year was a good one for U.S. cattle producers. Prices reached record highs and helped offset a four percent decline in consumption.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association says protein-hungry U.S. consumers spent a record $67.3 (B) billion dollars on beef last year. That's up from $65.2 (B) billion dollars in 2002.


Tags: agriculture animals bailouts beef Canada cattle diseases farmers food safety livestock Mad Cow meat news