Volume 7 Issue 11 • September 10, 2012

In This Issue ...


CCA update on COOL

Despite the appearance of little government activity during August in Ottawa, Washington or Geneva, some important milestones have taken place on the World Trade Organization (WTO) Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) dispute.  Following the adoption of the WTO Appeal report in Canada's favour by the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on July 23, the United States (U.S.) had one month to advise the DSB whether or not it intended to comply with the ruling.  The U.S. did indeed submit a letter on August 21 indicating its intention to comply.  The U.S. communication was silent on how it intended to comply or how long it would take.  The U.S. simply advised that it had begun to evaluate options and would need a reasonable period of time in which to change its measures.
The WTO rules provide that if the parties to a dispute cannot agree within 45 days of the adoption of a panel report (in this case, by September 6)  on a 'reasonable period of time' (RPT) to implement a panel ruling, then arbitration may be requested to set the RPT.  Although discussions aimed at reaching such an agreement were undertaken, it was clear that arbitration would be required, and Canada recently initiated the arbitrations process to the WTO.  The deadline for the WTO to arbitrate the RPT is 90 days from the date the DSB adopted the report (in this case, by October 21), although counsel advises the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) that this deadline has frequently been breached.

In the meantime, the CCA and its U.S. allies continue to seek a legislative amendment that would end the discrimination caused by COOL.  In this regard, it is important to keep an eye on the progress of renewing the U.S. Farm Bill.  The existing Farm Bill expires on September 30.  While much is unclear at the moment, it would seem that by September 30, one of three things will happen:  1) a new five year Farm Bill will be passed; 2) the existing Farm Bill will expire and U.S. farm policy will revert to 1949 legislation; or 3) a short-term extension of the existing Farm Bill will be passed.  Given that there are only eight legislative days in September before Congress recesses for Election 2012 campaigning, passage of a new five year bill before Sept 30 seems unlikely.  If the third option involving passage of a short-term extension occurs, then the WTO arbitrator will have knowledge of the date by which the U.S. must pass farm policy legislation and should take that into account in setting an RPT.  However, if neither of these options occur and the Farm Bill lapses to 1949 levels, it is reasonable to predict that this will create a crisis in the U.S. rural community during the Election 2012 and it can be further predicted that politicians will make promises to address concerns of U.S. farmers.  Ultimately, we believe that the U.S. Congress will take care of U.S. farmers and pass a new Farm Bill in the not too distant future.


R-CALF files complaint in U.S. Federal Court

Canfax Market Briefs

On September 1, R-CALF filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for Colorado seeking three actions. The first is to declare that the ruling of the Appellate Body of theWorld Trade Organization (WTO) concerning the Country of Origin Labeling Act is null and void in the U.S. and throughout the world.  We will have to see whether the Court feels it has the jurisdiction to make such a declaration, but it is certainly ironic that an organization that continually trumpets its concern over national sovereignty is asking a U.S. Court to rule with respect to the rest of the world.  No matter how the Court rules, the WTO finding will remain in place and if the U.S. fails to comply, as it has the undisputed sovereign right to do, Canada and Mexico will have the WTO sanctioned sovereign right to retaliate on U.S. exports.  
Second, R-CALF is requesting the Court to order U.S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to carry out, implement and enforce the Country of Origin Labeling Act as enacted into law by Congress and signed by the President of the United States.  We will have to see if the Court feels it is frivolous to order a Cabinet Secretary to enforce a law without any specific allegation that he is not already doing so, but if they do, we rather suspect that Secretary Vilsack would indicate that he is already indeed doing so.  The CCA would certainly agree that he is already doing so.
Third, R-CALF is requesting a mandatory order to compel the U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, to cease and desist from negotiating away the sovereignty of the U.S. by attempting to amend and dilute the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling Act.  Again, we will have to see how the Court chooses to respond to this request, but we rather suspect Ambassador Kirk would disagree that seeking solutions to avoid imposition of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports by the U.S.' best customers somehow diminishes U.S. sovereignty.  Ultimately it will be a U.S. decision as to whether following the WTO panel report or ignoring it is in the U.S.' best interest and they will act in that interest.  Making such a decision is indeed exercising sovereignty. 
Ultimately, the CCA has always believed that the only way that the U.S. can eliminate the COOL discrimination on imported livestock is to amend the legislation.   We will watch this Court case with interest, and we will get involved if necessary, but we do not feel that it represents any significant impediment to resolving the COOL dispute.


Progress continues on Japan's process toward UTM

The Prion Expert Committee of Japan's Food Safety Commissionn (FSC) recently held its final meeting by recommending that the upper age limit of Canadian and U.S. cattle can be raised from 21 months to 30 months as this would represent "little risk and its impact on human health would be negligible."  The Prion Expert Committee's recommendation is scheduled to be reviewed by the FSC at its September 10 meeting, at which time it is anticipated it could be put forward for a 30-day public comment period.  After public comments are reviewed, the FSC could formally recommend that the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare implement the age limit increase.  Once the Ministry formally receives the recommendation, it would commence its own internal approval process including negotiations on verification measures with export countries, audits, and final public meetings.  It is anticipated that this would include Japanese officials undertaking a mission to Canada to review our practices to ensure that cattle are indeed under 30 months of age.  In all, this is a positive development that indicates the Japanese process to liberalize access for Canadian beef imports remains on schedule.  If work continues apace, we estimate that the increased age limit would be in effect in the first quarter of 2013.


It happened again - Internet video of mistreatment of cows

California processor Central Valley Meat Co. is the subject of a recent Internet animal cruelty video released by anti-meat organization, 'Compassion over Killing.' The video captured instances of inhumane handling practices that are not condoned by the beef and cattle industry or the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suspended operations at the company pending investigation of the animal welfare issues cited in the video. The plant reopened after federal officials approved corrective action plans to improve the treatment of animals. As a result of the video, major customers, including McDonald's Corp., cancelled or suspended contracts with the company.

These types of undercover videos, typically taken by activists with an ordinary cellphone, draw attention to animal welfare issues. Their underlying motivation in exposing such acts is not to improve animal agriculture; but to end it by falsely portraying inhumane practices as the industry norm. There is no questioning their effectiveness with consumers; the video made international news, with parts or all of the video shown in coverage by ABC World News, CNN, New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, and in the United Kingdom the Daily Mail.

It is important to note that after reviewing the video, renowned animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin indicated that of the many animals filmed, one animal was improperly stunned in the video. That context does not make the inhumane handling incidents in this video excusable -- incidents that would no doubt sadden many producers. The CCA fully supports the statement issued by its U.S. counterpart, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), which called the actions depicted in the videos disgraceful and not representative of the cattle community. "Anyone who mistreats animals must be reported immediately and should be punished in accordance with the law. We must work together to put a stop to any abuse," the NCBA said.

The video shows a lot of cattle being prodded when they have trouble rising or walking. It has long been illegal in Canada to haul infirm animals unless to a veterinarian for treatment. The CCA and industry as a whole supports this law as animal welfare is of primary importance to cattle producers. Additionally, the CCA has long been supportive of the Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) Certification Program. The CCA views this training course for livestock transporters as proactive towards ensuring the safe transport of animals.

This latest activist video serves as an excellent reminder for producers to remain vigilant at all times about animal welfare. No doubt packers will be watching this video and working to ensure that they continue to do all that they can to prevent similar occurrences from happening at their facilities. But the packer is not solely responsible for this situation; generally speaking most of these problems originated at the farm. Producers and truckers have an important ethical and legal responsibility not to load cattle that are not fit for the trip to the auction mart or the plant. Producers, cattle buyers and transporters can help avoid this type of situation by being conscientious about only shipping cattle that can travel without suffering. It only takes seconds for a smartphone to record video and post it to the Internet. Take some extra time to think about the animals you are planning to truck before you load them.

Here is a list of reminders for producers:

Some cows should not be shipped to auction marts under any circumstances. Do not load or transport:

Do not transport these animals until the animal has been treated and /or recovered. If the animal is not expected to recover, euthanize it on the farm.

Alternatives: There are three main alternatives. The best option is to make cow culling decisions while these animals are still fit for transport. Animals that are not fit for transport may be euthanized and disposed of on farm instead. There are also companies in some areas across Canada that will pick up carcasses for a fee. Finally, cows that are free of drug, vaccine and other residues, do not have a fever above 39oC (104.5oF), have a body condition score of 2/5 or higher, and are able to walk under their own power may be salvageable through emergency slaughter. Animals that do not meet all of these criteria will be condemned.

For more advice on whether or not an animal is fit to load, consult your veterinarian, auction mart or a reputable trucker.


BIXS Cattle Classifieds

Fall is here and in the cattle business that means showtime. Participants in the Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS) have a unique opportunity to showcase their BIXS cattle that will be coming for sale this fall. The BIXS Cattle Classifieds is a free service for producers registered on BIXS. Participants can post details about their sale cattle including breed composition, weights, and vaccination histories, along with the location and date they expect to sell by auction. Then the complete listings are posted on the BIXS website enabling an international audience of prospective buyers to browse. The listings can be filtered (sorted) based on several criteria including geographic location, breed, weight range, vaccinations and much more. This free service is reserved for BIXS producers and users must input their BIXS Business ID number in order to post listings. The BIXS Cattle Classifieds is a good way for producers to increase exposure about the cattle, genetics, and health program at their operation to buyers prior to sale day.


Cattle, campylobacter, and humans

Campylobacter jejuni can cause campylobacteriosis in humans, but generally doesn't make cattle sick. Cattle are often thought to be a source of the C. jejuni bacterium found in sick humans, but no one ever knew for sure. The Beef Cattle Research Council supported a research project conducted by researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the University of Lethbridge to study this issue. These researchers used advanced DNA technologies to determine whether the same strains of C. jejuni are found in cattle and human patients in Southern Alberta. They also examined whether resistance to ciprofloxacin (an antimicrobial of very high importance in human medicine) has the same genetic basis in C. jejuni isolated from cattle and humans. In short, more than half of the types of C. jejuni isolated from humans were not found in cattle. Further, the mutations underlying ciprofloxacin resistance in C. jejuni isolates found in human patients were rare in the C. jejuni isolates found in cattle, and vice versa. Click here to read more.


CCA Action News

Staff Contributors: John Masswohl, Larry Thomas, Ryder Lee, Reynold Bergen
Written, edited and compiled by: Gina Teel and Matthew French

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The Canadian Cattlemen's Association is the national voice for nearly 83,000 Canadian beef cattle producers.

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