Senators work to stop rule that opens border to OTM beef |

Senators work to stop rule that opens border to OTM beef

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In light of a recent ruling which could affect the American beef market, a group of U.S. senators is urging action to stop the importation of unsafe Canadian cattle.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, introduced the resolution in the Senate on Wednesday, Oct. 3, along with original co-sponsors Sen. Mike Enzi, R-WY, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, Sen. John Thune, R-SD, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH Sen. John Tester, D-MT, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-WY.

On Oct. 4, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-MT, in conjunction with Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-SD, also introduced a bipartisan resolution to block implementation of USDA’s rule. Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-WY, also is an original co-sponsor of the resolution.

“Day after day, Americans are being confronted with new revelations of tainted, diseased, or otherwise dangerous food crossing our borders,” Dorgan said. “Amazingly, rather than heightening its safety requirements for imported food, the USDA now seeks to allow the importation of Canadian cattle and beef over 30 months of age.

“The effectiveness of Canada’s BSE mitigation measures to prevent the continued spread of BSE is, at best, uncertain and unverified as five of the seven cases of BSE discovered in Canada since the beginning of last year were born after March 1, 1999,” Dorgan continued. “Concerns of trading partners about commingling U.S. and Canadian beef and cattle will continue to limit export potential. American beef is the safest in the world, but increased importation of higher risk Canadian beef and cattle would undermine the confidence of our trading partners and cause further damage to our domestic beef industry.”

Under the new ‘Over 30 Months’ rule proposed by the USDA, any cattle born after March 1, 1999 and older than 30 months of age will be permitted into the American market in various forms, including beef products and byproducts, half and whole carcasses, tallow and gelatin. The rule will take effect on Nov. 19, 2007 unless congressional action halts the plan. The Senators are also looking into other options to stop this rule from going into effect.

“USDA’s actions defy common sense,” Dorgan added. “Congressional action is needed to prevent USDA from advancing this rule, further jeopardizing the safety of our food supply and hampering our ability to trade our products internationally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that Canadian cattle are 26 times more likely to be infected with BSE than U.S. cattle, making it obvious that this rule needlessly puts U.S. consumers at risk.”

In 2003, the first cases of the neurological illness BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) were diagnosed in a number of cattle throughout Canada. Subsequently, the USDA shut down trade with Canadian beef sellers in order to protect the American market from a potential outbreak among cattle in the U.S.

“The United States Department of Agriculture continues to pay closer attention to the needs of big business and the packing industry than to the needs of our own U.S. producers,” said Johnson. “I will continue to push for the implementation of my mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law, which would ensure consumers have a choice in the grocery store aisle.”

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