The directive that sailed through the 2005 Cattle Industry Convention, Feb. 5 in San Antonio, TX, set forth a laundry list of concerns the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) wants addressed before it can support reopening of the Canadian border to live cattle trade. The directive's 11 key points include:

  1. Prohibit the importation of cattle and beef products from cattle more than 30 months of age.

  2. Assure all Canadian firewalls to prevent BSE, specifically adherence to Canada's feed ban, are functioning properly.

  3. Harmonize health standards on imported feeder cattle, especially bluetongue and anaplasmosis.

  4. Movement of Canadian cattle into the U.S. must be managed to minimize market disruptions.

  5. Fed cattle imported for immediate slaughter must be certified to be less than 30 months of age at importation.

  6. A ban on the use of fetal bovine serum from heifers imported for immediate slaughter.

  7. Disallow USDA grades and stamps on any imported beef.

  8. Feeder cattle must be branded with “CAN,” individually identified with an ear tag, certified to be less than 30 months of age at time of slaughter, shipped in sealed trucks from the border directly to approved feedlots, then directly to harvest in sealed trucks.

  9. Canadian feeder heifers imported to the U.S. must be spayed.

  10. USDA must work with primary trade partners to ensure expanded access for U.S. beef exports isn't jeopardized in any way by expanded trade in Canadian cattle and beef.

  11. The Bush Administration must first reach an agreement to re-establish beef and beef by-product trade with Japan, South Korea and Mexico, and apply economic sanctions if necessary.

USDA has already taken action on Point 1. Point 2 was partially addressed by NCBA's trade delegation, and additional investigations are ongoing with reports expected prior to March 7.

Point 3 isn't only obvious, but doable with little difficulty. The reality is Canada has far more at stake than the U.S., and this non-tariff trade barrier issue has existed for 20 years. It must be resolved and aligned with the science immediately, as the U.S. will never have this much leverage again.

Point 4 is a restatement of past NCBA policy but it underscores how complicated implementing this ruling will be and the possible need for more time. It's also an issue difficult to define and adhere to without trade first being established. Nothing in the current rule addresses mitigating short-term market effects.

Point 5 is already part of the USDA rule and isn't expected to be a major stumbling block. Point 6 is another difficult-to-resolve issue, while Point 7 is a restatement of current NCBA policy that USDA will likely continue to ignore. Point 8 is essentially a part of the current rule.

Point 9 is a major departure from the current rule but it's not likely to happen as the provisions and tracking of these heifer feeders are considered to be already adequate. While inherently obvious, Point 10 isn't expected to carry much weight.

Point 11, however, is critical, the most controversial, and USDA seems adamantly opposed to it. USDA believes the border reopening will lead to reopening of U.S. export markets. Point 11 will likely be the most difficult objective to achieve.