050620 AMI Says Beef Trade Should Resume With Canada

June 11, 2005

St. Paul, MN - The American Meat Institute (AMI) told USDA's BSE Roundtable that full trade in cattle and beef with Canada is warranted by science and essential to the survival of beef companies nationwide.

According to AMI, both the U.S. and Canada were proactive in striving to prevent BSE and aggressive in responding to the one case detected in the U.S. and the three cases detected in Canada. Both nations also have taken extensive steps to protect both animal health and the public health, and those measures have been successful.

According to AMI, the fact that over the last 12 months, the 380,000 cattle most likely to test positive for BSE all tested negative sends a resounding message that U.S. policies are working. And because Canada's BSE prevention strategies and regulations are virtually identical, AMI argued that Canada is a near mirror image of the U.S. and that full trade should be resumed.

“There are those here today who will attempt to advance many conspiracy theories…they’ll try to alarm the public with publicity stunts and false claims of imminent danger,” said AMI Foundation President James H. Hodges. “But we cannot let this animal disease become an emotional disorder. We must allow science – not hysteria -- to chart our course.”

Hodges said that some American isolationists are distorting science in an effort to maintain a closed border and high cattle prices. But he noted that the North American beef industry is an integrated industry regulated by nearly identical sets of rules and governed by the same scientific principles. “We cannot criticize Canada without criticizing ourselves,” Hodges said.

Hodges said that we are now importing record levels of Canadian beef from cattle under 30 months of age. “When our policies permit beef from Canada, but not the animals from which the beef is derived, our policy sends a message to the world that Canada does a better job of processing cattle than we would if we imported the cattle here and processed them ourselves. Is that the message we want to send? ”

AMI Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Janet Riley unveiled new black wrist bands that say, the Institute’s new web site that was developed to communicate the urgency of restoring trade with Canada.

“We chose black because we are mourning our losses,” Riley said. We’ve lost more than 6,100 workers due to layoffs and closed plants. We’ve also lost slaughter capacity. In 2005, we expect to slaughter four million fewer cattle than we slaughtered in 2002. Just this week, another beef packing plant closed in Gering, Nebraska and more than 200 people lost their jobs. The plant cited the inability to source Canadian cattle as a chief reason for the closure.

Riley detailed the millions in aid the Canadian government is providing to its own beef industry in an effort to build new beef plants and expand existing ones that can process Canada’s glut of cattle. She said the plants are state of the art and offer serious competition to the members of the U.S. beef industry.

“U.S. policies are stoking Canada’s meat packing engine,” Riley said. “We are killing our own U.S. plants. We are committing economic suicide.” Riley also said he damage is also hitting hard-working Americans, who are paying record prices for beef – the highest prices since 1979.

“Our industry is in crisis. This strain will drive businesses to bankruptcy and drive those who survive to consolidate into larger companies,” Riley noted. “You can’t have it both ways…you can’t fight against free trade and fight against consolidation in the beef industry. But that’s exactly what the isolationists are trying to do.”

“It is my hope that the 9th Circuit will recognize that this is just a profit-making game for the isolationists and that the court will reverse the preliminary injunction,” Riley said. “It is my hope that the court will see what my industry sees: the isolationists’ efforts are like a cancer on the U.S. beef industry. The longer they go untreated, the greater the damage they will do and more irreversible their effects will become.”


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