Conservatives criticize Liberals for missing BSE risk status deadline

Canada had an opportunity to boost its BSE risk ranking, which would improve market access

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is criticizing the federal government for missing a deadline to apply for a more favourable World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) designation for beef exports.

CPC Agriculture Critic John Barlow says Canadian ranchers were given a “stunning setback” because the federal Liberal government missed a deadline this summer to apply to the OIE for Canada to be listed as “negligible risk status” for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

He says that means Ontario farmers can’t sell their fed cattle to the United States and are suffering the consequences because of it.

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Canada is currently listed alongside Ecuador, Greece, Ireland, Chinese Taipei, France and Ireland as having a “controlled” BSE risk. A longer list of countries is listed as having a negligible BSE risk, including Argentina, Brazil and the United States.

Those designations are the outcome of a risk assessment based on OIE provisions that identify potential factors for BSE occurrence and their historic perspective. Countries are encouraged to review their risk assessment annually to help OIE determine if their situation has changed and a new designation is warranted.

Having a “negligible” risk as opposed to a “controlled” risk is more favourable, and according to Barlow, would open up new markets because certain countries — such as South Korea — will not import beef from a country that does not have a negligible risk designation.

“We’re asking if (the federal government) can get an exemption and apply right away, even though we’ve missed that deadline, and maybe there’s some way we can expedite the application process,” said Barlow.

In a statement, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) said Canada is proceeding with its application for negligible risk status and that the federal government is working with them on a joint working group tasked with completing the application “for a July 2020 application submission.”

“Moving Canada to a BSE negligible risk status is a critical first step in adjusting requirements for specified risk material (SRM) to better align with those of the U.S. Achieving negligible risk status will also assist in enhancing competitiveness for Eastern Canada fed cattle marketing,” read the statement.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the Liberal government knows how important it is to the beef sector to be granted negligible risk status and that they are, “Working with the beef sector to develop a strong submission to the World Organization for Animal Health for spring 2020.”

Bibeau refused to comment on why this year’s deadline was missed.

“This really goes to show how much of a priority agriculture is with this government,” said Barlow.

About the author

Reporter

D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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