At the end of last week the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a proposed rule aimed at ending the ban on imports of Canadian cattle under 30 months old, deemed to be at low risk for mad cow disease.
The USDA has proposed to create a new US category for low-incidence countries, like Canada, that have had effective Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) safeguards in place prior to detection, and that have adopted additional measures based on risk analysis.
It also outlines proposed protocols for the resumption of imports of certain live ruminants and ruminant products and byproducts from Canada.
"It is a key step towards further opening the border and demonstrates forward momentum. That said, we are not out of the woods yet and I remain committed to working closely with US officials to ensure the process moves as quickly as possible," said Vanclief.
Once the rule is published, interested parties have 60 days to make submissions in support of it or raise concerns. This is followed by a review of submissions, after which the US could make the decision to reopen the border to live cattle from Canada.
"At this point, it is difficult to predict when the US border will be reopened to live cattle but I am optimistic the ban will be lifted soon after the comment period,"added Vanclief.
The federal government has been pressuring the US for months to lift the ban, which has cost Canadian producers an estimated C$11 million a day.
The US imported about one million live cattle - worth about US$700 million - annually from Canada prior to the ban. Canada is the first country to get beef products back into the US after the discovery of a case of BSE.