WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Committee on Agriculture today held a hearing to review the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rule providing for Canadian beef and cattle imports. After the Canadians discovered a Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) positive cow in Canada in May 2003, the U.S. closed its border to Canadian beef and cattle imports.In December 2004, USDA published the final rule establishing minimal-risk regions which will become effective on March 7, 2005.
The Committee heard from Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, marking his first testimony before the Committee. Chairman Goodlatte noted that he looked forward to the Secretary’s testimony to gain a better understanding of the development of the rule.
The U.S. remains committed to protecting the safety of the food supply and domestic cattle population. In June, USDA implemented its enhanced BSE surveillance program to determine the health of the U.S. beef population. “The United States has in place an array of protective measures including the feed ban, Specific Risk Material (SRM) removal and a robust BSE surveillance system. These are designed to shield our herd and consumers from current risks and prevent the amplification of BSE if it was ever introduced into our herd,” Chairman Goodlatte said.
Chairman Goodlatte also emphasized the U.S.’s continued commitment to basing decisions on scientific information rather than fear. “I remain convinced that if we abandon science as our guiding principle, we will harm the long term health of our beef and cattle community. Cattle producers, the people who work in our processing plants and retail establishments, and our nation’s consumers will benefit the most from a committed course based on sound science,” the Chairman said in opening statements.
In January 2005, the USDA dispatched a technical team to Canada to investigate the efficacy of Canada’s ruminant to ruminant feed ban after Canada’s second and third confirmed cases of domestic BSE and to determine if there were any potential links between the positive animals. The results of the study were published last week. The Honorable Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture, said in his testimony, “Based on a review of inspection records and on-site observations, the team found that Canada has a robust inspection program, that overall compliance with the feed ban
is good, and that the feed ban is reducing the risk of transmission of BSE in the Canadian cattle population. Where isolated issues were found to exist, they were related mostly to areas of documentation and record-keeping.”
The Chairman closed the hearing by encouraging Members and the public to remain vigilant, alert, and committed to sound science as the process continues. “Going forward, my advice to my colleagues and the constituents of this Committee would be to remain rooted in science, with an eye towards the long term structure and economic health of the beef and cattle industry. The public policy decisions being made now will have far-reaching implications for producers, processors, retailers and consumers and we owe it to them to remain both prudent and thoughtful,” said Chairman Goodlatte.
The Committee will continue oversight of the rule as it goes into effect and throughout its implementation.
The Honorable Mike Johanns, Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Ron DeHaven, Administrator, Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service,
United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Keith Collins, Chief Economist, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Chuck Kiker, Region 5 Director, R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America, Beaumont, Texas
Mr. Jim McAdams, President, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Adkins, Texas
Mr. Ken Bull, Vice President for Cattle Procurement, Cargill Meat Solutions, Wichita, Kansas
Mr. Carl Kuehne, President, American Foods Group, Green Bay, Wisconsin