Open border to cattle, states
and provinces urge
Great Lakes states and provinces are urging Canada and
the United States to quickly reopen their borders to live
cattle to help restore public confidence in food safety,
and say BSE-related restrictions must be based on science,
"We need to ensure that a science-based approach
is taken on this issue," Ontario Agriculture Minister
Steve Peters said today as he wrapped up a meeting with
his counterparts from Quebec and several U.S. states,
including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New
York and Pennsylvania.
Peters said the provinces and states want their federal
governments to "recognize that this is a North American
issue" to help expedite the reopening of the borders
as quickly as possible.
"Certainly we need to demonstrate to our international
community, that goes beyond just the United States and
Canada, that in fact we do need to be dealing with science,
as opposed to emotional perceptions that often times become
more of an issue," said Gene Hugoson, commissioner
of agriculture for Minnesota.
"It only seems natural that we demonstrate to our
international trading community, that we both are seeking
to do business with, that we have a good working relationship
between the two of us," added Hugoson.
"That becomes a further demonstration of the belief
in the quality of the product that we have" and shows
government confidence in our food safety to consumers
around the world.
Peters and Hugoson signed an "understanding"
reached at the fifth annual Great Lakes Regional Forum
on Agriculture calling for "a more practical, risk-based
approach to establishing guidelines" for preventing
and containing BSE, especially as it affects trade.
"We encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture
to re-engage the rule making process with respect to .
. . the importation of live animals from Canada, to facilitate
the resumption of trade in cattle and other affected sectors,"
said the one-page memorandum.
Hugoson said he expected the U.S. border would be open
to Canadian beef in stages, but stressed the importance
of getting the process started as quickly as possible.
"Certainly, the beginning of those stages needs
Peters said the first step to getting cattle moving across
the border again is to get the USDA to begin the process
of commenting on rules regarding the importation of live
animals, but he wouldn't say when that could happen.
"We need that process initiated as quickly as possible,
but as far as speculating beyond that, I can't do that,"
Hugoson said getting the borders reopened is the best
way to help restore consumer confidence in the food supply.
"Our challenge, of course, is how do we ensure the
consumer we can, in fact, depend on the science and at
the same time make the rational decisions so people can
have confidence in government looking at this issue and
taking appropriate action when necessary," he told
The agriculture ministers and commissioners are worried
the economic impact of a single case of BSE in each country
will spread to other sectors if the borders aren't reopened,
and admit new problems such as the avian flu in Asia make
it even harder to convince consumers the food chain is
Representatives from the Alberta Agriculture Ministry
joined the Great Lakes provinces and states as observers,
but did not sign the agreement reached by the others.