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2007-9-2 10:01:40

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USDA Should Withdraw OTM Rule;
Canada Confirms BSE-Positive Bull Born in 2000


Billings , Mont. – The Canadian government has confirmed that its latest case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was in an Alberta bull born in 2000 – well beyond the 1997 implementation of Canada’s feed ban – and well beyond March 1, 1999, the date after which the Canadian feed ban was previously hoped to have become effective. As a result of this and other recent evidence showing that the 1999 feed ban was not effective in preventing subsequent cases of BSE, R-CALF USA is again calling upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately withdraw its plans to reopen the Canadian border to cattle over 30 months (OTM) of age.



“Half of Canada’s detected BSE cases so far have been born after its feed ban was established, clearly demonstrating that the feed ban has not prevented subsequent cases of BSE in Canada and proving that USDA’s OTM rule will increase the risk of introducing BSE-infected cattle into the United States,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “Canada’s newest improved feed ban is scheduled to take effect on July 12, and the Canadian government says the result will be that BSE is eliminated from its cattle herd in approximately 10 years, and that its level of BSE ‘continues to decline.’



“It appears Canada now believes that a truly effective feed ban may finally commence in July of this year – whether this one succeeds remains to be seen,” he continued. “And the statement by Canada that its BSE level ‘continues to decline’ is not supported by data, which show a steady continued flow of new BSE cases. The U.S. should not be depending on such wishful thinking and optimistic predictions to protect its cattle herd.



“Common sense says you only need to take into account Canada’s November 2006 investigation of tainted cattle feed in Ontario and Quebec, and its most recent investigation regarding nine Saskatchewan farms that remain quarantined for contaminated feed, to realize that Canada’s got some serious compliance problems with its feed ban,” Bullard said. “USDA did not expect to discover BSE cases in animals born after Canada’s 1997 feed ban, and this fact is well documented in R-CALF USA’s ongoing court challenge.”



USDA argues that in order to qualify as a minimal-risk region, a country must have “a ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban that is in place and is effectively enforced…” and that “cases of BSE found in animals born after the feed ban was implemented would suggest either that the feed ban was ineffective or that there were noncompliance issues…” and, “This factor distinguishes between regions with effective feed bans and those without them. In a region in which BSE has been detected, if an animal with BSE was born after a feed ban was implemented, it is a sign that the feed ban may not be effectively enforced.”



The underlying assumption is that if cattle born after a feed ban was instituted are found with BSE, then this is evidence that contaminated tissues are still entering the Canadian feed system. Yet, USDA’s original rule says there should be no evidence of significant noncompliance.



“With the discovery in Canada of several cattle testing positive for BSE that were born years after the implementation of Canada’s feed ban, there is plenty of evidence of noncompliance,” said R-CALF USA Vice President and Region II Director Randy Stevenson. “The confirmation of this bull, born in 2000 – three years after the feed ban was implemented – literally shouts noncompliance.



“The phrase ‘sound science’ is seldom heard anymore,” he continued. “That is the case because those who want to continue importing cattle and beef from Canada know that sound science won’t support their arguments. There has been no scientific evidence to suggest that the standards for determining feed-ban compliance should be changed.”



Stevenson said it is important to note that most of the recent discussion on the Canadian border issue has focused on the economic aspects. Bullard agreed.



“It is clear that USDA is now putting its desire to create a North American cattle herd above its duty to make certain this disease is prevented from infecting the U.S. cattle herd,” Bullard said. “It’s also important to note that when Canada confirmed this latest case last month, Mexico immediately halted its plans to reopen its borders to dairy cattle imports from Canada. Mexican animal health officials also said that one more case of BSE in Canada would be enough to shut off Canadian cattle and beef once again.



“ Mexico’s action shows that the U.S. is going to additionally risk lost export markets if USDA does not withdraw its proposed OTM rule,” Bullard emphasized. “USDA continues to ignore the health and safety concerns surrounding Canada’s BSE problem, and instead is focusing on how reopening the Canadian border will financially benefit multinational packers.”



“Isn’t it time USDA started representing U.S. cattle producers,” Stevenson asked. “Wouldn’t it be great if the agency followed its own mission statement – ‘to protect the health and value of American agriculture and natural resources.’”



R-CALF USA’s membership policy states that R-CALF USA should take appropriate action to challenge and stop USDA from allowing the importation of beef products from cattle older than 30 months of age, as well as the importation of live cattle over 30 months of age, from Japan or any other BSE-affected country.



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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization and is dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry.   R-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on both domestic and international trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALF USA has more than 60 affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.   







For Immediate Release                                          Contact: Shae Dodson, Communications Coordinator
March 7, 2007                                                                                                            Phone:   406-672-8969; e-mail: sdodson@r-calfusa.com