President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently announced details of a regulatory cooperation agreement designed to improve the flow of meat trade at the U.S.-Canada border. Last spring, joint comments on this issue were submitted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), American Meat Institute, National Meat Association and the National Pork Producers Council, which helped play a role in shaping the tentative agreement.

Paul Clayton, USMEF senior vice president for technical services, says the organization is encouraged by the joint announcement and pleased with the progress being made on this initiative.

 “A lot of the comments the industry submitted were taken to heart, and we were pleased to be able to take part in this process,” Clayton says. “While U.S. meat generally flows smoothly into Canada, crossing the border can be more complicated than some exporters anticipate. Efforts to streamline the process are certainly welcome, especially with U.S. meat exports to Canada performing so well right now.”

When year-end totals are available, Canada should be a $1-billion market for U.S. beef for the first time. Through November, U.S. beef exports to Canada had already set new records for volume (nearly 384 million lbs.) and value ($940.5 million). Canada is poised to be the leading beef export value market for 2011, the first year ever in which U.S. beef exports have broken the $5-billion mark. Exports are also expected to set a new volume record of about 2.8 billion lbs., surpassing the previous high established in 2003.

Specific issues receiving attention in the proposed U.S.-Canada border initiative include:

• Implementing electronic border-related document transmission by the end of 2013,

• Reducing duplicate meat inspections at the border,

• Harmonizing U.S. and Canadian practices on the naming of meat cuts,

• Aligning application and review processes for veterinary drug approvals and

• Making maximum drug-residue limits consistent between the two countries.

Although retail and point-of-purchase marketing of U.S. beef is limited in Canada, Clayton leads a USMEF Export Services group that devotes considerable time and resources to helping U.S. processors and exporters achieve success in this market.

“Access to Canada is favorable compared to most foreign markets, but it’s certainly not as easy as going from state to state because you are still crossing an international border,” he says. “Our exporters can sometimes be tripped up by the details, but hopefully this new initiative will make the process little more streamlined and easier to use.

“We see this initiative as having the potential to make crossing the border more seamless and to reduce duplication of our inspection procedures. We may even be able move to an electronic document system – which is something we are really excited about and have been working toward the past couple of years,” he says.

Fact sheets on two new U.S.-Canada trade initiatives are now available at these links:

Beyond the Border Initiative

Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan

For more on the latest beef export results and other beef trade issues, visit www.usmef.org.