March 11, 2005

Canada Responds to U.S. Closure

The Canadian government announced yesterday that it will contribute $50 million to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association Legacy Fund to launch an aggressive marketing campaign to reclaim lost markets.

According to a release issued by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, money contributed to the Legacy Fund is expected to support efforts to access international markets and to generate further expansion of the country’s already rapidly increasing harvesting capacity. The 10-year fund is set to support market development initiatives by the Canada Beef Export Federation, the Beef Information Centre and the Canadian Beef Breeds Council.

“The uncertainty created by the closure of many borders, including that of the United States, to Canadian live cattle makes it imperative that we accelerate our efforts to regain and expand our markets,” Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Andy Mitchell stated in the agency release. “Through the Legacy Fund, the industry and governments will work together to launch an aggressive marketing campaign to increase exports and reduce our reliance on any one single market.”

Mitchell’s latest comments come after an announcement earlier this week detailing Canada’s resolve to move forward. On the day originally scheduled for the border opening, Mitchell released a statement, saying that although “this temporary setback is frustrating,” Canadian officials will carefully consider the appropriate next steps in their plan to move forward as they await the results of U.S. court rulings and legislation. It appears yesterday’s announcement may be some of the first installments of the country’s plan for trade — with or without the United States.

ILC Endorses Mandatory ID

More than 200 industry representatives reached a general agreement to support a mandatory U.S. cattle identification (ID) and traceability system during last week’s 2005 International Livestock Congress (ILC) in Houston, Texas.

According to an ILC release, cattlemen, industry service providers, trade association representatives and members of academia agreed that the nationwide ID system should be electronic, with limited and controlled access to data by governments. Participants agreed that, with a goal of 100% compliance, ID should begin at birth and continue through the packing plant, focusing on necessary information to contain animal health crises — such as animal ID, premises ID and tracking information. Visit for more information.

South Dakota Introduces Branded Beef Program

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed a bill March 8 to begin a branded beef program that includes stamping a state-government seal of approval on state-raised beef. According to The Associated Press, the label included on products in the South Dakota Certified Beef Program would also allow consumers buying beef the ability to visit an Internet site, enter a code from the label, and track the animal from birth to feedlots and processing facilities.

Only meat from South Dakota cattle that are tracked electronically and raised according to program standards would qualify for an official state trademark or seal. All cattle in the program must be raised, fed and harvested within the state, and animals will be required to have electronic ID tags. Farmers and ranchers voluntarily enrolling in the program will pay licensing fees — used to finance marketing efforts and monitoring of the livestock — and keep detailed records. According to the AP article, state officials hope the program will improve cattle prices.

Overseas Outlook

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials reported early February that Japanese technical experts had accepted the U.S. grading system as a means of determining cattle age — a long-standing dividing issue seen as a barrier toward trade resumption. While agency officials and cattlemen nationwide hoped the action signaled the beginning of renewed trade, the country’s borders remained closed at press time.

According to Japan Today, Japanese government officials said they were awaiting results from the Japanese Food Safety Commission, which had been examining the safety of lifting the country’s policy of testing all cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The commission’s final recommendations could help determine the future of the tentative compromise reached last October between the United States and Japan allowing the resumption of beef imports from animals aged up to 20 months.

E. coli Drops Dramatically

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has released data showing a 43.3% drop in the percentage of E. coli O157:H7-positive ground beef regulatory samples collected in 2004 compared with 2003 figures. According to the agency release, of the 8,010 samples collected and analyzed in 2004, 0.17% tested positive for the contaminant, down from 0.30% in 2003. The number of FSIS recalls related to the E. coli strain also continued to drop.

The release credited enhanced regulatory oversight and training, improvements in beef plants’ food safety plans, new inspector training initiatives, and teaching workshops for a decline in FSIS positive samples of more than 80% between 2000 and 2004. Visit for more information.

California To Receive Disaster Funding

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced $6.9 million in Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program funding to assist southern California in recovering from recent severe storms and flooding. An unusually wet season in the state caused flooding, landslides and significant mudflows. Rehabilitation efforts will provide erosion control measures, removing debris, reshaping and protecting eroding banks, repairing levees, and reseeding damaged areas. For more information on Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) disaster assistance in California, visit or

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