NMPF Asks USDA to Close Canadian Border to Cattle Imports in Light of New Report Faulting Livestock Tracking

USDA’s Own Internal Assessment Illustrates Risk of Current Policy

(NMPF Press Release)


Arlington, VA – A new internal report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which faults the agency’s ability to track imported Canadian cattle is ample evidence that the agency should reconsider its decision last year to open the border to those livestock, according to the National Milk Producers Federation.


In a letter sent today to Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, NMPF President and CEO Jerry Kozak noted that the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, in a report finished last March but now publicly available, “suggests USDA has problems tracking and ensuring the health of cattle imported from Canada.” The full report is at www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/50601-12-CH.pdf. A copy of the NMPF letter is available at www.nmpf.org/washington_watch/animal_health/BSE.


“NMPF believes that the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease) situation in Canada is such that an animal could be imported into the U.S. and, if allowed to reside amongst the U.S. dairy herd, introduce or disseminate BSE in the U.S. This is evident by the number of cases of BSE from animals born after the USDA determined date of effective enforcement of their feed ban,” the letter states.


The letter then asks the USDA to consider closing the border to animals to be used for breeding purposes, which would include dairy heifers. USDA reports that approximately 45,000 Canadian dairy animals have been sent to the U.S. since the border was reopened in November 2007.


“Under the Animal Health Protection Act, the Secretary of Agriculture may prohibit the importation of any animal or article if the Secretary determines that the prohibition is necessary to prevent the introduction into or dissemination within the United States of any pest or disease of livestock,” NMPF wrote.


“We request that USDA close the Canadian border to the importation of cattle for breeding or herd replacement purposes until such time that USDA can sufficiently ensure the health of imported cattle and your ability to track these cattle.”


The NMPF letter noted that there have been nine Canadian cattle infected with BSE that were born after 1997, when Canada’s ruminant feed ban was imposed – a measure believed to prevent the spread of mad cow disease from infected feed. Seven of those nine animals were born after March, 1999, a point in time that the USDA determined Canada achieved compliance with international standards to prevent the spread of BSE.


“The enforcement of the 1997 Canadian feed ban does not appear to be effective in preventing the spread of BSE in Canada,” NMPF wrote, in light of the periodic reoccurrence of infected cattle, many of which could have been exported to the U.S. The first case of BSE discovered in the U.S., in 2003, was in a Canada-born dairy animal.


“Cattle imported for breeding or herd replacement purposes may not show clinical symptoms of BSE infection for many years, allowing BSE to incubate in U.S. cattle herds. In addition, any offspring from these cattle will also reside in the U.S. cattle population. If any of these animals are confirmed positive for BSE, both domestic and export markets for U.S. producers will be disrupted,” NMPF said. 7-31-08


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