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Canada .. incentive to test?

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Kato

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Second U.S. injunction feared
this document web posted: Wednesday March 16, 2005 20050317p1

By Mary MacArthur
Camrose bureau

Battered Canadian cattle producers are beginning to worry that the beef industry may take yet another dramatic turn for the worse.

There is a growing sense that Montana judge Richard Cebull, who has granted every R-CALF suit so far to keep the American border closed to Canadian cattle, will soon place an injunction on Canadian boneless beef from animals younger than 30 months coming into the U.S.

"The industry is very concerned," said Bill Jamieson, of JGL Livestock in Moose Jaw, Sask.

The export of boneless beef from young animals has been the beef industry's only financial relief since the U.S. border closed to Canadian cattle and beef older than 30 months after the discovery of a domestic BSE case almost two years ago.

Push for testing

"Now it appears there is more than a small chance that they will get it shut off to boneless beef as well," said Jamieson, an order buyer. He and other producers and feedlot operators have started a petition to ask the federal government to test cattle older than 30 months.

"I believe we have no choice in this matter but to go to some sort of testing," said Jamieson, who feels Americans would have no choice but to reopen the border if the beef was proven safe with BSE testing.

Steve Kay, editor of Cattle Buyers Weekly, agreed with the assessment that the Montana judge could rule in R-CALF's favour for a complete border closure.

"He looks inclined at the moment to do a preliminary injunction against allowing boneless beef under 30 coming into the country," said Kay.

Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, doesn't know how likely it is that U.S. beef markets will be cut off.

The desire to stop boxed beef from animals younger than 30 months was in the original R-CALF injunction and the judge didn't add it to the list of products not allowed to cross the border, said Laycraft.

"He has left boxed beef alone so far," said Laycraft. "It's a little hard to say how great the risk is.

"Knowing you're dealing with a single individual in Montana, you don't take anything for granted."

The Canadian cattle industry is developing contingency plans to get a realistic figure on volumes of Canadian beef that could move into alternative markets if the U.S. border closed to boneless beef as well. Last year Canada exported 400,000 tonnes of beef to the United States.

Elizabeth Whiting, press secretary for federal agriculture minister Andy Mitchell, said there is no confirmation R-CALF intends to push ahead with its demands to close the border to Canadian boxed beef.

At this point it's just "assumptions and rumours," said Whiting.

Laycraft said the CCA is taking a second look at the possibility of BSE testing if it would help open markets for Canadian cattle. So far only Russia and Japan have indicated a desire for BSE testing. Japan is in the process of changing its rules to require testing only for cattle older than 21 months.

"We're looking at all options," said Laycraft, who added that until now, Canada's problem wasn't a lack of testing, but enough slaughter capacity.

"If we find that we're unable to move the UTM (under 30 months) beef, we have to look at every option."

Betty Green, past-president of the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, said her organization has long advocated BSE testing if that's what it takes to open export markets.

"Now with the possibility of R-CALF going after boxed beef, that's all the more important," said Green. "We have to get back into the world market.

"This has gone on far too long. It's horribly frustrating for producers who a month or two ago just thought they had to hang on another couple of months and things would get better."

Robert Meijer, director of public affairs with Cargill, said the closing of the American market would be a huge blow to Canadian producers and to the Cargill packing plant in High River.

"If High River and the other packers lose that opportunity, our industry is in big trouble. Our ability for slaughter would be severely reduced. In effect, we wouldn't have much of any market," said Meijer.

"We can't lose what we've already gained
 

Shep

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I say to hell with what the Americans say or think and let's get on with testing slaughter cattle for BSE.

That, combined with ID traceability puts us light years ahead of 99.9% of most Americans with consumer confidence. Oh, but I forgot they haven't had any cattle with BSE. Yet... :wink:
 

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