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Mitchell says discussions will focus on beef trade

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Feb 10, 2005
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Mitchell says discussions will focus on beef trade
this document web posted: Wednesday, February 9, 2005 20050210p85

By Barry Wilson
Ottawa bureau

Federal agriculture minister Andy Mitchell says he will use his first meeting this week with new U.S. agriculture secretary Mike Johanns to try to start building a cross-border relationship while keeping pressure on the United States to open the border to live cattle imports.

"I think it's an opportunity to establish a good relationship with the new secretary," Mitchell said in an interview Feb. 4 after announcing his Feb. 9-10 visit to Washington.

"It will be a chance to reinforce the message that we've had in terms of regularizing beef trade between the two countries."

Mitchell will lead a delegation that includes beef industry leaders and at least six provincial agriculture ministers.

The group planned to meet with congressional leaders and American cattle industry leaders to press the point.

"The overriding issue should be science and the rules that govern our trade should be rules based on science," said Mitchell. He said Johanns, confirmed recently as agriculture secretary, has been making the same point.

The Canadian minister said he also will be raising "a broader range of issues" than simply BSE when the two rookie agriculture ministers meet for the first time, although they already have had a brief telephone conversation.

Meanwhile, the BSE arguments made by the Canadian government and Canadian cattle industry leaders - that identification of three cases in Canada is not a reason for panic and that 100 percent testing for BSE is not necessary despite consumer pressure - received a boost Feb. 7 from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

In a statement issued in Rome, FAO livestock expert Andrew Speedy called the Canadian cases, as well as a recent infected goat discovered in France, "isolated incidents" that "should not cause panic among consumers and producers."

The FAO said BSE testing is working and the ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban, as well as continued vigilance and traceability systems, will deal with the issue. It suggested "incentives" to convince farmers to report suspect animals for testing.

The UN body rejected calls for universal testing for BSE.

"There is no point in testing all animals in slaughterhouses because most of them are too young to detect the disease," said Speedy. "It should be remembered that symptoms can vary and affected cattle may not appear really 'mad.'

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