R-CALF USA Co-Founder/Past President Leo McDonnell testified in Bismarck N.D., recently on behalf of the organization at a hearing on the policy implications of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's proposed rule on importing Canadian cattle older than 30 months (OTM) of age. The Interstate Commerce, Trade and Tourism Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation conducted the hearing.

“USDA is considering allowing into the U.S. OTM beef and cattle from Canada — product that is banned for health concerns from nearly all international markets, product that the U.S. cannot even export to our primary export markets,” McDonnell said. “USDA's action will make the United States a dumping ground for beef and cattle banned from major international markets, and at the same time, U.S. cattle producers are being lobbied against by major importers here in the U.S. from being able to differentiate their product with country-of-origin labeling (COOL).

“Who benefits from these actions,” McDonnell asked. “Not U.S. consumers; not the U.S. producer.”

McDonnell also emphasized that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in not a North American problem, but a Canadian problem. Canada has tested approximately 140,000 head of cattle for the disease since 2004 and identified eight of those animals as positive for BSE. The U.S. has tested more than 800,000 cattle for BSE and discovered only two native cases, both of which were found to be carrying the atypical type of BSE.

“The science of typical BSE and atypical BSE does not support calling this a North American problem — it is a Canadian problem that seems to be growing in Canadian cattle born after their (1997) meat and bone meal ban,” McDonnell continued.

BSE problem shift

“Make no doubt about it — if USDA is allowed to proceed in allowing OTM beef and cattle into the United States, then the full weight of Canada's BSE problem will be shifted from Canada and put on the shoulders of U.S. ranchers,” he warned. “You don't manage risk by increasing exposure. Sound science tells you that you do not eradicate a disease by increasing exposure.

“The U.S. should pursue sound science that is practiced by our major importing countries, and we should strive to upwardly harmonize these import standards and practices surrounding health and safety, not lower them,” McDonnell urged.

Also, R-CALF USA believes that because the U.S. commingles Canadian cattle and beef with U.S. cattle and beef, it just isn't logical to expect that Canada's weaker feed ban, its inferior testing program, and its least restrictive SRM (specified risk materials) policies would help the U.S. restore lost beef markets and gain new ones.

Additionally, R-CALF USA believes Canada has failed to implement practices used in other BSE-affected countries to reduce the incidence of mad cow disease and protect consumers.

R-CALF USA Co-Founder and Past Director Herman Schumacher said the hearing went very well.

“Leo gave some very strong testimony, and Senator Dorgan referred back to Leo's testimony on more than one occasion,” Schumacher said. “The senator also asked some good, tough questions. He did a heck of a job.”