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Canadian cattle imports opposed

DENVER-Meeting here this week, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) Board of Directors expressed strong opposition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) pending rule to expand imports of beef and live cattle from Canada. USDA currently has limited importation of Canadian beef from cattle younger than 30 months of age, due to numerous cases of mad cow disease or BSE-positive cattle. The pending rule would allow cattle older than 30 months to be imported into the United States.

“While we empathize with our fellow cattle producers in Canada, the most recent BSE-positive test of a young bull questions the effectiveness of Canada’s ban on ruminant by- products in feed,” said Charles Klaseen, RMFU board member and cattle producer from Crawford, Colo. “The importation of Canadian cattle and co-mingling with U.S. cattle and beef could be highly detrimental to U.S. beef producers. In particular, damage could occur to the U.S. export market and to the high level of consumer confidence in beef born, raised and processed in the United States.”

In early January, USDA proposed to allow imports of processed beef of any age and all cattle born after March 1, 1999, the date Canada banned ruminant by-products in feed for ruminants. Canada has had four confirmed cases of BSE-positive cattle born after the date of the ban, raising the question of compliance within Canada’s feed manufacturing sector. “We have to see evidence that Canada’s measures to eliminate BSE are working before we can open up our borders to imports of Canadian beef and cattle,” said Ken Macy, RMFU board member and cattle and sheep producer from Pine Bluffs, Wyo. “We just cannot afford to gamble with our future, and we don’t think USDA should either.”

The RMFU also noted that Congress needs to provide the funds and require USDA to implement mandatory country-of-origin labeling that was adopted as part of the 2002 farm bill.

“Mandatory county-of-origin labeling on meat and other foods would enable consumers to differentiate between U.S. and imported food products,” said Kent Peppler, RMFU President and farmer from Mead, Colo. “Labeling is favored by the vast majority of consumers and producers. It would allay the fears of consumers if they are given the tools they need to choose what they want to eat.”

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is a general farm organization representing 25,000 families in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico.