Reefer Haulers Rejoice as Meat Ban Partially Lifted

by James Menzies

CALGARY, Alta. – Refrigerated goods haulers were the first to benefit from the U.S. decision to allow frozen meat products to cross the border, but will domestic livestock haulers be able to get enough drivers behind the wheel to accommodate the resulting increased kill rate at home?

In August, the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) wasn’t so sure.

The association said livestock hauling companies could face a driver shortage, since many truckers have moved onto other companies or may even have gotten out of the business altogether, due to the lengthy ban.

“The relaxing of the ban will allow the large quantity of “trim” occupying packers’ freezers to start moving south again. By taking the backlog out of the freezers, the packers will be able to bring the domestic kill rate back to normal,” said an AMTA press release.

“We hope the carriers can hold on a little longer while we wait for the slaughter houses to call for more animals. The large loss in drivers experienced by the livestock haulers since May 20 may create other problems until they can recruit more drivers to fill the empty seats. Hopefully, some of their former drivers will come back.”

In a normal year, about 20,000 load of cattle are shipped to the U.S. The full-on ban forced about 1,000 drivers in the province to scramble for work. Some may have even parked their rigs for good.

Be that as it may, the AMTA admitted it was pleasantly surprised by the partial ban lifting, which came sooner than expected.

The news was especially welcome in Alberta, where refrigerated goods haulers claim to have seen a 20 per cent decline in their profits since the ban was imposed May 20.

On Aug. 8, the U.S. also officially lifted the ban on pet food, boneless sheep and goat meat from animals under one year of age and vaccines for veterinary medicine for non-ruminant use are also being allowed to cross into the U.S. from Canada.

Be that as it may, it could still be several weeks before any of these products actually gets across the border.

That’s because in order to resume shipment of the allowed goods into the U.S., carriers will have to obtain a special permit.

As for live cattle, the ban remains firmly in place. And just when it will be lifted remains unknown. At press time it wasn’t likely be lifted before the end of August, according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Anne Veneman.

Japan is still adamant the U.S. keep its border closed to live Canadian cattle, threatening to ban U.S. beef if full-fledged trade resumes.

Country-of-origin labeling laws, already being discussed in the U.S. could convince Japan to lift its demand.

– with files from The Calgary Herald

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