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Providing for Congressional Disapproval fo the Rule Sumbmitted by the Dept of AG Relating to Risk Zones for Introduction of BSE

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHAMBLISS. Madam President, I rise today in opposition to the resolution and in support of the rule as proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I do this, first of all, with great appreciation of the efforts of my colleagues to bring this resolution forward. But I must encourage my colleagues to vote against this resolution.

This is not the time to pull the plug on a rulemaking process that is rooted in the best available science and, instead, to be guided by the concerns that seem to be less about science than about trade advantages.

The illustrious chairman of the Finance Committee went into great detail about the trade issues and the fact that the rule change is based on sound science. That is a lot of what I want to talk about initially this morning.

First, I think we need to understand exactly what the

resolution seeks to disapprove of today. On January 4, 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published its final rule regarding further reopening of the U.S. border for beef imports from Canada. This rule designates Canada as the first ``minimal-risk region'' for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as BSE. I will not try that long word again. We are going to call it BSE. It is due to become effective on this Monday, March 7, 2005. The original rule would have allowed bone-in beef from cattle of any age and live cattle under 30 months of age.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted two rounds of public comment and received over 3,300 comments on the proposed rule. Over a period of months, USDA considered these comments, and responses were published with the final rule. The final rule establishes criteria for geographic regions to be recognized as presenting minimal risk of introducing BSE into the United States.

USDA utilized the OIE, which is the International Office of Epizootics, the international body that deals with animal diseases worldwide. Again, this will be referred to as the OIE. The USDA utilized the OIE guidelines, which recommend the use of risk assessment to manage human as well as animal health risks of BSE, as a basis in developing final regulations defining Canada as a minimal-risk country.

The final rule places Canada in the minimal-risk category and defines the requirements that must be met for the import of certain ruminants and ruminant products from Canada. Under the USDA definition, a minimal-risk region can include a region in which animals have been diagnosed with BSE but where sufficient risk mitigation measures are in place to reduce the likelihood of the disease's introduction into the United States.

On January 2, 2005, Canada confirmed its second domestic case of BSE, and a third case 9 days later. The USDA sent a technical team to Canada on January 24, 2005, to investigate Canada's adherence to the ruminant, ruminant feed ban. The results of that investigation were favorable, finding that the Canadian inspection program and overall compliance to the feed ban were good. The technical team's epidemiological report investigating possible links of the positive animals is still pending.

In response to this, on February 9, 2005, Secretary Johanns announced USDA would delay the implementation of that part of the rule allowing for older bone-in beef--that is beef in excess of 30 months old--because the technical team's investigation in Canada would not be complete by March 7.

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The current rule now allows imports from Canada of bone-in beef and live cattle under 30 months of age intended for immediate slaughter.

On January 24 of this year, USDA sent a team to Canada to assess the adequacy of Canada's current ruminant feed ban, as previously stated. On February 25, USDA published their report, and in this report USDA stated:

[T]he inspection team found that Canada has a robust inspection program, that overall compliance with the feed ban is good, and that the feed ban is reducing the risk of transmission of BSE in the Canadian cattle population.

Furthermore, the report notes the obvious fact that:

[T]he Canadian feed ban is not substantially different than the U.S. feed ban.

Those who want to seriously question the adequacy of the Canadian BSE controls should keep in mind that Canada almost perfectly mirrors the controls in place in the United States. The controls for BSE in the United States are sufficient and, according to all the data available, the similar controls in Canada are also sufficient.

We should keep in mind also that the question regarding Canadian beef and cattle imports is not a food safety issue. I repeat, it is not a food safety issue. It is an animal health issue. That is what we are talking about today.

BSE is not spread by contact between people or animals. Safeguards are in place in both the United States and Canada to ensure that no potentially infectious material would ever make it into the human food supply, period.

Internationally accepted science maintains that the removal of certain specified risk materials that contain the prions that cause BSE eliminates the disease's infectivity. Canada has adopted SRM removal requirements that are virtually identical to current U.S. regulations.

In addition, while the Canadians do not view tonsils in cattle under 30 months as SRMs, the U.S. requires that all meat exported from Canada to the United States have the tonsils removed pursuant to U.S. regulations.

Finally, the Food Safety Inspection Service, FSIS, has audited a number of Canadian plants and found them to be in compliance with U.S. BSE requirements, including SRM and small intestine and tonsil removal.

Since all potentially infectious materials are removed from every animal old enough to theoretically exhibit the disease, both in the United States and Canada, it should be clear that this is an animal health debate only. We are all committed to maintaining the highest standards of human health protection. We have those already today, and we will still have those standards after this rule takes effect.

Regarding the issue of animal health, the OIE has affirmed that Canadian BSE control efforts have resulted in a very low risk of BSE in their cattle herd. The best available science in both Canada and the United States tells us that the safeguards in place are protecting animal health also. USDA-APHIS has conducted multiple investigations into Canada's ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban compliance since the May 2003 border closure, and all scientific, risk-based evidence has pointed to resuming beef and cattle trade with Canada.

They have concluded that the Canadian ruminant feed ban, which took effect simultaneously with our own feed ban, is effective in preventing the introduction and amplification of BSE in both Canadian and U.S. cattle herds. We can choose to go down the road of trade protection or we can continue to trust the best science available. I encourage us to stick with sound consensus science.

On January 17 of this year, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association sent a delegation of producers and scientists to Canada to evaluate the effectiveness of that country's BSE control efforts. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is the largest beef producer organization in the United States, representing both beef producers as well as processors. The outcome of the NCBA review published on February 2 affirms their confidence that the Canadian BSE safeguards are adequate.

Regarding the Canadian feed ban, the NCBA Delegation concluded:

The Canadian feed industry appears to be in compliance with its feed ban, based on visual inspections and multiple annual audit reports.

They also concluded that Canada's BSE surveillance and proposed import requirements related to animal health were sufficient to protect the U.S. cattle herd, if the border with Canada is opened even further.

While we would never want to formulate U.S. policy merely based on the practices of another country, it is instructive to note that domestically produced beef consumption in Canada is up, not down. It is clear that Canadians are not shipping beef to us that they don't choose to eat themselves.

In 2003, the last year for which numbers are available, Canadian beef consumption increased 5 percent to 31 pounds per person per year. Indications are that consumption in 2004 will be just as strong if not stronger. We can be confident that the beef exports from Canada presently underway and the ones proposed by USDA's rule don't constitute dumping unwanted product in our market but are composed of the same beef that Canadian consumers recognize as wholesome and are buying in increasing quantities.

In the past, a large percentage of Canadian cattle came to the U.S. processing plants for further value-added processing and to provide sufficient livestock numbers to keep in business many U.S. plants near the northern border. Since the closure of the U.S. border to Canadian beef, the Canadian processing capacity increased by 22 percent in 2004 alone.

This means that those processing jobs and all the added carcass value are now increasingly in Canada and no longer in the United States. This may have especially significant impact on U.S. processors in the Pacific Northwest who have relied on Canadian cattle to keep their plants open. In recent months, several U.S. companies have announced that they are suspending operations or reducing hours of operation due to the tightening cattle supplies and lack of an export market. If we keep our border closed to Canadian-slaughtered cattle and bone-in carcasses, then their meat will still come to the United States as boneless cuts because that is already happening with or without this rule. But the added value and jobs that could be in the United States will increasingly be kept in Canada.

Agricultural trade is vital to maintaining a robust agricultural economy in the United States. The future of agriculture in this country, the future of ranching depends upon our ability to export the finest quality of agricultural product of anybody in the world. As the world's largest trading partner, we must base our trade decisions on sound science. We have the most to lose when nontariff trade barriers are enacted.

USDA has made resumption of international trade in U.S. beef a high priority. The United States and Japan have held consultations and agreed that the trade in beef between the two countries should resume given certain conditions and modalities. We have to remember that our beef exporting trade with Japan has been discontinued due to the fact that we found one cow in the United States with BSE,

although it turns out that cow originated in Canada and came into the United States.

Japan is one of our largest markets, and it is a critical market for us to reopen. USDA is in the midst of negotiations today for the reopening of that market. Taiwan has also agreed in principle to resume imports of U.S. beef and beef products. Removal of restrictions by some of our major Asian trading partners is on the horizon.

In 2003, we exported $1.3 billion worth of beef products to Japan, $814 million worth of beef to South Korea, and $331 million to Canada. In 2004, after the one BSE positive cow was found in Washington State, we exported essentially zero dollars' worth of beef products to Japan and South Korea and $98 million worth of beef to Canada. These countries are aware of our rulemaking and are watching how we address this issue with Canada. We have a huge stake in seeing worldwide trade in beef resume on the basis of sound science rather than on trade protectionism.

Make no mistake, we are sending a very powerful message today with our actions on this resolution to all of our trading partners. For countries prohibiting beef imports from the United States, whether we continue to adhere

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to sound science in our dealings with Canada could influence their future actions toward our beef. Canada has met our minimal risk standards, and we must adhere to the policy dictates of sound science or face others using arbitrary standards toward us.

Currently, there is a suit filed in U.S. district court in Billings, MT, challenging USDA's BSE minimal risk region rule. Yesterday, after a hearing, a temporary injunction was granted staying the implementation of the final rule and ordering the two parties to sit down and agree to a schedule for a trial which must take place in the short term because of this being a temporary injunction. At this point in time it would be wise to allow the court proceeding to play out. It would be premature to pass this resolution and interfere with the operations of that court. We can always come back after the judicial proceedings are finished and express our disapproval. It is appropriate for us to allow the third branch of Government to finish their review of this rule, and we should not usurp the judiciary on this matter.

In summary, according to the best science available in our hands today, further opening of the U.S. border to Canadian bone-in beef and cattle under 30 months of age does not pose a serious threat to the U.S. beef herd. It certainly does not increase the risk of human BSE exposure. Recent evaluations of the Canadian cattle industry by the NCBA indicate that there is not a wall of cattle that will flood into the U.S. market from Canada should this rule go into effect.

The Canadian Government, USDA, and the NCBA have all reviewed the Canadian BSE safeguards and found them sufficiently robust and protective for trade to be expanded as this rule proposes. Beef exported from Canada has to meet the same science-based standards that have been successfully protecting our consumers and beef producers for many years.

It has been stated before--and I repeat--that Americans are blessed with the most abundant, affordable, and safest food supply in the world. The action we take today will not make our food supply safer. It merely enforces and encourages the actions of those who would restrict trade with measures not related to sound science.

I encourage my colleagues to say yes to sound science by saying no to this resolution today.

I yield the floor.

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