NCBA: Selective Canadian border policy passes

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 14, 2005
by WLJ
— Ban on 30-month-plus cattle asked for.
— Japan trade contingency also requested.

Despite hearing new information from a recently commissioned trade team to Canada, members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) preliminarily passed a policy supporting reentry of Canadian live cattle and an expanded category of Canadian beef into the U.S. starting March 7, but only after USDA agrees to 11 conditions.
Under the policy directive, NCBA members asked Washington, DC, lobbyists to tell USDA to open the border to additional Canadian beef and live cattle only if the 11 stipulations were met. Those requirements are:
• Prohibit the importation of cattle and beef products from cattle more than 30 months of age;
• Assure that all Canadian firewalls to prevent BSE—specifically adherence to a ban on ruminant meat and bone meal (MBM) in ruminant feeds—are functioning properly;
• No Canadian feeder cattle be imported until agreement is reached on harmonization of animal health standards between the U.S. and Canada, especially concerning bluetongue and anaplasmosis;
• Movement of Canadian cattle into the U.S. be managed to minimize market disruptions;
• Fed cattle imported for immediate slaughter must be certified to be less than 30 months of age at the time of importation;
• Ban the use of fetal bovine serum from heifers imported for immediate slaughter;
• USDA grades and stamps not be allowed on any imported beef product;
• Canadian feeder cattle must be branded with a “CAN,” individually identified with an ear tag, certified to be less than 30 months of age at time of slaughter, shipped in sealed trucks from the border directly to approved feedlots, then moved directly in sealed trucks to slaughter;
• Feeder heifers from Canada must be spayed;
• USDA must work with primary U.S. trading partners to ensure that expanded export access for U.S. beef is not in any way jeopardized by expanded importation of cattle and beef from Canada; and
• An agreement to reestablish beef and beef byproduct trade with Japan, South Korea and Mexico, including possible economic sanctions, be formalized before the Canadian border is reopened.
The policy directive was unanimously approved by the policy division of NCBA’s board of directors and was unanimously upheld by NCBA members in attendance during the group’s general membership meeting Feb. 5.
The unanimous passage of that policy shocked several industry onlookers, particularly as members of a nine-person trade team to Canada reported there was no evidence of a “wall of Canadian cattle” waiting to enter the U.S., the perceived shortcomings of the Canadian feed processing industry were incorrect and human and animal health is not being compromised if Canadian beef and cattle are allowed reentry to the U.S.
The nine-member NCBA and university trade contingent, which visited Canadian feedlots, packing houses and feed mills during January, told NCBA members that USDA’s live equivalent figure of two million head of Canadian cattle entering the U.S. annually is greatly overstated and that the figure would most likely be a million head, or possibly less. Homer Buell, cattle producer from Nebraska and member of that trade group, indicated that feedlots in Canada are only 65-70 percent of total capacity and that calf numbers are somewhat restricted due to Canadian producers not calving out as many cows.
Tom Field, professor of animal science at Colorado State University, was also on the trade mission to Canada and said that the feed manufacturing industry in that country is not as problematic as earlier reports indicated. He stated that Canadian feed mills all have dedicated production lines for ruminant and non-ruminant feeds, and that many of them will be moving to three dedicated lines, including a production line for only ruminant meat-and-bone meal and other specified risk materials (SRMs).
In addition, Field said Canadian feed manufacturers indicated the proposal by the Canadian government to remove ruminant protein from all livestock feeds is a very serious proposal and that doing so would put the U.S. at a very serious competitive disadvantage.
Scientifically there is no validity for doing that, however, public perception would be that Canada is getting ahead and addressing consumer concerns better than the U.S., Field indicated.
“It’s unfortunate, but doing that would put the U.S. beef industry at a competitive disadvantage,” he said. “We weren’t real encouraging with them on that proposal.”
In interviews with several leaders from the four-state group that initially drafted the policy directive, it was indicated that there are still major concerns from “grass roots” cattle producers that Canada’s recent history of having BSE in its cattle herd could unfairly and unnecessarily harm the U.S. industry, and that having additional “safeguards” in place insures the “future competitiveness of U.S. beef in a global beef market.”
According to convention sources, the four states that had affiliate groups initiate the 11-point initiative were California, Montana, Texas and Iowa. Affiliates from Kansas, Nebraska, and nine other states put their backing behind the proposal upon presenting it to the group’s board of directors.
The directive will be part of a mail ballot sent to all NCBA members on Feb. 17. Members will be asked to approve or reject all policy decisions passed at convention. For the ballot to be valid, there must be a 20 percent return from four of NCBA’s seven regions. The deadline for those ballots to be returned was unknown as of press time last week.