Still no beef resolution after latest talks

NEW YORK, (Aug. 30, 2004) – Cattle farmers and haulers finally looking for a quick end to a 15-month ban on live cattle exports to the U.S. are out of luck after Canadian Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell failed to come away with a resolution upon a meeting with his American counterpart.

Mitchell’s first face-to-face meeting with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman in New York City this weekend didn’t provide any relief for the $8 billion Canadian beef industry devastated since the U.S. closed its border in response to a single case of BSE, or mad cow disease, in an Alberta bovine last May.

Mitchell said he argued his case based on scientific evidence that Canadian beef is safe, reports Canadian Press. Veneman did say that she does want to see “the regulatory process moving forward” in the U.S., but did not give any indication how much longer that process would take.

It’s been exactly a year since the U.S. eased its restrictions to allow export of low risk boneless beef from cattle under the age of 30 months; boneless meat from sheep and goats under the age of 12 months; and veal from calves 36 weeks or younger. Veneman also pledged to begin working on a “rule-making process,” which would establish new guidelines to resume the import of live cattle under the age of 30 months. At the time, Canadian officials welcomed the news, optimistically predicting that live cattle would be allowed by the end of 2003. But no such thing has happened to date.

Complicating matters was a second positive BSE case in Washington State in December 2003. That cow’s origins were also traced to an Alberta farm. The news refueled protectionist interest in the U.S., which have been pressuring the Bush administration to keep the border closed to Canadian cattle shipments, charge some beef industry officials in Canada.

Meanwhile, Ottawa has started to drop hints that as the crisis drags on, more emergency aid could be coming. Federal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale recently reiterated a promise consisting of $1-billion farm aid package, including $680 million in relief for cattle producers.

— with files from Canadian Press

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