Border opening to older Canadian cattle

COUTTS, Alta. — Alberta’s busiest border crossing may start to get a bit busier after the U.S. Department of Agriculture softened its regulations regarding Canadian cattle.

Traffic at the Coutts/Sweetgrass border crossing was slowed during the past four years, after a mad cow disease scare at an Alberta farm. The trade restrictions on Canadian beef cost the industry billions of dollars and cattle ranchers across the country were looking forward to the reopening of the U.S. border to older cattle on Nov. 19.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently ruled that the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Canadian cattle is negligible.

It has been a slow process however. The border was closed to Canadian beef producers in the spring of 2003 and it took a couple of years before young cows (30 months or younger) were allowed to cross into the U.S.

The new rule will allow the export of any live animal born on or after March 1, 1999, which was the date Canada’s BSE-fighting feed ban was implemented.

“We’re pleased to hear this. It brings us a lot closer to full normalization of trade,” said Hugh Lynch-Staunton, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, following the initial announcement in September. “We are currently reviewing the final rule and we agree with the USDA’s assessment that there is negligible risk associated with the resumption of trade for these products. It is in line with the science-based, international standards of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and it demonstrates what we’ve known all along – that Canadian cattle and beef should be able to be exported to the United States and to the rest of the world.”

There have been 10 mad-cow cases recorded in Canada and three in the U.S.

— with files from Canadian Press

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