The new year began with some bad news for the Canadian beef industry after the country confirmed its second case of BSE.
The dairy cow was from the state of Alberta and had been born in 1996, before the introduction of the 1997 feed ban. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it suspected that the animal became infected by contaminated feed before the feed ban was implemented.
No part of the animal entered the human food or animal feed systems and this finding does not indicate an increased risk to food safety, according to the agency. It added that the infected animal was detected through the recently enhanced national surveillance program.
The USDA had previously said that it planned to reopen the US border to Canadian live cattle under 30 months of age and additional kinds of beef. Reuters said that US agriculture secretary Ann Venetian had announced on Tuesday that said she did not envision a reversal of this decision.
Congress has until 7 March to review the trade plan. If enough lawmakers express reservations, the USDA might be pressured to delay the regulation. So far, only a couple members of Congress and a handful of farm groups have publicly stated their opposition.
The Canadian beef industry has lost an estimated $5 billion since the discovery of a single BSE-infected cow in Canada last year, according to a report from BMO's Economics Department published in November last year. Many in the industry see a resumption of exports as the key to improving this figure and would be disappointed if a delay were to occur.
From September 2003 to August 2004, monthly beef exports averaged €97 million or approximately 90 per cent of pre-BSE levels.
On the other hand, the American Soybean Association welcomed the news of an inconclusive BSE test in the US in November 2004, "as slightly bullish for soybeans prices". The news triggered a drive in prices for soybean meal, moving to the highest level since 11 October for the January contract on ideas that there could be further restrictions on meat and bone meal feeding.