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Traceability Target Date Unchanged

Canada remains committed to national livestock traceability, even though Canadian cattle producers want some slack and the United States is backpedalling on its own traceability program.

Plans for a traceability system in 2011 are unchanged, despite recent developments in the U. S., Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said.

“Our government remains committed to working with industry and provincial and terr i tor ial governments to put in place a comprehensive national traceability system,” Ritz said in emailed comments to the Co-operator last week.

Asked if the 2011 target date remains firm, a Ritz spokesperson replied, “No change there.”

That puts Canada out of step with the U. S. , which last month sharply cut back plans for a national animal identification system, following an outpouring of opposition from producers and the industry.

The system will now apply only to interstate sales of animals. Individual states will administer the program, not Washington. Lower-cost technology will be encouraged.

Here in Canada, livestock traceability will be mandatory next year as the result of a federal-provincial agreement.

Canadian cattle producers must implant radio-frequency tags in each animal for scanning at auction markets to track livestock movements in case of a disease outbreak. The average cost of an RFID tag is $3 or more.

The system is necessary to ensure food safety and give Canada a trade advantage, said Ritz.

“This national traceability system will give Canadian producers the competitive edge over our trading partners in the global marketplace,” he said.

Producers are resigned to the system, despite the extra costs and the apparent lack of market advantage so far, said Brad Wi ldeman, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president.

“The government has said this is going to be the law and we’re going to have to comply with it,” Wildeman said.

“Let’s make sure that, if we’re going to do this, we’re not going to make it too expensive.”

Ottawa last year promised $20 million to upgrade handling facilities in livestock auction markets to track individual animals as they are mixed with other herds.

But scanners may not be able to track all animals 100 per cent of the time and the system must allow some tolerance level for error, said Wildeman. [email protected]

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