OTTAWA, Ont. -- The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is asking federal Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast, to speak with his counterpart in the US about ensuring inspectors of Canadian meat product exports are always available at the Canada-US border.
The CTA says it wants to ensure that a situation on Oct. 19, in which the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) temporarily suspended meat inspections at the Portal, N.D./North Portal, Sask. and Emerson, Man./Pembina, N.D. border crossings, does not occur again. The suspension, which lasted for over a week and only became known after the fact, was reportedly over a dispute between the USDA and the private company contracted to provide the meat inspections.
The CTA learned the company holding the inspection contract had recently been sold and was advised by USDA that it needed to apply for a licence extension or a new licence in order to continue providing meat inspections. “For whatever reason, this appears not to have happened,” CTA officials said in a release.
According to Bob Dolyniuk, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association, who became aware of the situation after receiving calls from a number of carrier members, “The USDA did not engage another party to conduct the inspections during this period or make any other contingencies; it simply closed the inspections down with no apparent thought to the disruptive and costly impact this would have on the trade. They (USDA) didn’t even inform the US Customs and Border Protection Agency of what was going on – MTA had to do that.”
According to the CTA, trucks carrying meat products were required to re-route through Montana and Michigan – adding up to 1,200 miles to some trips – and Canadian meat suppliers were hit with tens of thousands of dollars per day in increased shipping costs.
“There was a complete communications vacuum,” says David Bradley, CEO of the CTA. “From what we can tell USDA didn’t even alert the US meat importers so that contingency plans could be implemented.”
“There can be no justification in our view for USDA penalizing one of its contractors by closing down port services and throwing the trade into chaos,” he says. “Canada and the United States have been working very hard to ensure the border is as secure and efficient as it can be. When something like this happens it really makes you wonder what some people are thinking.”
CTA says it is hopeful that by raising the matter with trade officials on both sides of the border, this situation will not be repeated.