040406 Senators Want to Withdraw Cattle Proposal

April 7, 2004

Yakima, WA - Seven U.S. senators sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman on Wednesday, urging her to withdraw a proposal that could allow live cattle shipments from Canada to the United States as early as this spring.

Wednesday was the last day for public comment on the proposal to reopen the border to cattle younger than 30 months of age. Cattle older than that are considered at higher risk of mad cow disease.

The U.S. border was closed to Canadian cattle last May after a case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was found on an Alberta farm. Some beef exports resumed last fall, and Canadian officials hoped the rest of the restrictions would be lifted early this year.

Instead, cross-border cattle shipments have remained banned following the discovery of mad cow disease in a Washington state dairy cow that originated in Alberta.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., joined senators from six other states in urging the Agriculture Department to drop the proposal, which would list Canada as a country with "minimal risk" for mad cow disease.

"While USDA appears determined to significantly increase its BSE testing, we are concerned that you are not requiring Canada to meet the same high standards," the senators said in the letter.

Also signing the letter were Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis.; Sen. Byron Dorgan, D- N.D.; Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.; and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Montana Sens. Max Baucus, a Democrat, and Conrad Burns, a Republican, also have expressed concern about the proposal. On Tuesday, Baucus called for an independent investigation by the General Accounting Office into Canada's handling of mad cow cases there.

Eating meat from animals with mad cow has been linked to a rare but fatal condition in people, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, although no cases have been traced to U.S. beef.


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