Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

August 18, 2005 11:05 ET

Border's Open, but Job's Not Over, by Andy Mitchell, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Aug. 18, 2005) - The July 14 decision by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a preliminary injunction issued in March by a District Court in Montana effectively means that the U.S Minimal Disease Rule is now in force. After a two-year ban, live Canadian cattle under 30 months of age are again crossing the border into the United States.

I join the Canadian livestock industry and all Canadians in welcoming this very positive development. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Government of Canada have long argued that there is no basis in science to keep the border closed and this ruling has indeed vindicated us in that position.

The ruling supports the position of the Government of Canada and the USDA that both our countries are best served by an integrated North American beef and ruminant market guided by internationally accepted science that protects animal and human health. In its reasons for overturning the preliminary injunction, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the USDA "had a firm basis for determining that the resumption of ruminant imports from Canada would not significantly increase the risk of BSE to the American population."

Without question, the past two years have been extremely challenging for producers, their families and the entire industry. I would like to offer my personal thanks and congratulations to our industry and government partners who have worked so hard to see this day.

While we are pleased to see trade resume, our job is not yet over. The Government of Canada recognizes that this case may still have to be settled in the Court of Appeals later this year. In the meantime, we will continue to build on the progress we have made in repositioning the Canadian beef industry for a profitable and sustainable future.

The Repositioning Strategy that we put forward last September in collaboration with industry and provinces had a number of components, including expansion of our domestic processing capacity as a way of adding value to our exports and reducing our dependence on live exports to the U.S. This has been going extremely well. We are projecting a 30-per-cent increase in domestic slaughter capacity over pre-BSE levels by 2006. We intend to maintain this momentum.

The strategy also comprised an international market expansion component and we've had success in this regard. Canada has re-established trade in 15 additional international markets beyond the United States, either in whole or in part. We're continuing our heightened advocacy efforts for Canadian products in Mexico and Japan, as well as other potential and untapped markets, to increase demand for Canadian products.

What we've been able to accomplish in Canada, by increasing our slaughter capacity and by aggressively moving to establish ourselves in international markets, is essentially to give our producers a choice as to how they wish to market their products. We've provided more options for producers who will make their marketing choices based on what they believe is the best business decision for them.

With the minimal risk rule now in place, Canada will continue to work closely with our U.S. counterparts to make it operate as efficiently as we possibly can. That's in the interests of both countries.

Finally, as I remind U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns whenever I speak to him, we need to move expeditiously to regularize the export of Canadian cattle over 30 months of age. We need to complete the process, to develop one more rule that would cover older animals and breeder animals. I will continue to urge the Secretary to move forward as quickly as we possibly can.

We've reached a milestone by re-gaining access to the U.S. for cattle under 30 months. There's still more to be done, but I'm convinced that with producers and others in the industry working together with the federal, provincial and territorial governments that we will be successful in achieving our objectives.

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