The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a review of import conditions for bluetongue and anaplasmosis for cattle from the U.S. Apart from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia where bluetongue has been infrequently reported, Canada is free of these diseases. To prevent introduction from the U.S., import restrictions have been in place for several decades in western Canada.

"Canada's bluetongue-related import restrictions have been a real obstacle for U.S. cattlemen for many years," says Terry Stokes, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) CEO. "NCBA and its state affiliates have worked hard to eliminate this trade barrier and ensure that our cattlemen have fair access to the Canadian market, for both feeder and breeding cattle."

CFIA proposes to reclassify bluetongue from a reportable disease to being immediately notifiable. This means movement restrictions will no longer apply, but CFIA can still meet international reporting obligations by reporting any actual detection of bluetongue. CFIA also plans to enhance its level of bluetongue surveillance.

Beginning in 1995, feeder cattle were able to be imported under the Northwest Pilot Project without testing in winter months from a handful of states determined by CFIA as either free or with a low incidence of bluetongue. In 2003, CFIA concluded that a vector capable of transmitting bluetongue didn't exist in eastern Canada from Ontario to the Atlantic Provinces. The year-round restricted feeder program enables cattle to be imported from the U.S. into approved feedlots in the western provinces (Manitoba and west) without testing from 39 states recognized by the CFIA as having low or medium bluetongue incidence.

CFIA recognizes continuing its bluetongue and anaplasmosis restrictions will exacerbate opposition within the U.S. cattle industry to USDA's proposed rule to allow imports of cattle older than 30 months and beef from over-30 animals. The rule is expected to be released for public consultation in the next few months.

CFIA also recognizes Canada's beef cattle industry will need a continuous supply of feeder and breeder cattle to support ongoing beef slaughter expansion. It's estimated a net increase of 950,000 slaughter cattle will be required over the next year to achieve 90% slaughter capacity as the buildup of cattle and cull cows that occurred during the BSE crisis declines and new slaughter plants come on line.
-- Clint Peck