Manitoba producers with cattle or bison headed to the U.S. have been able to get export permits online for months. As of June, 1, so will everyone else.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says it is ready to expand its My CFIA web portal for live bovine export to all ports between the U.S. and Canada. As of June 1, the USDA will accept export permits delivered through the web portal.
The CFIA initially launched the online permits as part of a pilot program in November 2019. Only producers crossing through the Emerson port south of Winnipeg were eligible for the pilot.
Four producers have been issued 34 certificates since then, the CFIA says.
Although the program predates the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, the agency says the portal will eliminate the need for producers to get paperwork endorsed in person at CFIA offices and will also give CFIA employees more room to work from home.
“Given the success of the pilot, CFIA will be prioritizing expanding the pilot beyond the first port of entry for live bovine over the coming months,” a CFIA spokesperson said. “This would have happened regardless of the pandemic, but will support physical distancing.”
Rollout of the program will be, “measured and cautious,” to allow businesses to adapt and avoid trade disruption, the spokesperson added.
The Manitoba Beef Producers welcomed any efforts to reduce the “regulatory burden” on beef.
MBP also noted that the program predated the pandemic, but added that, “the requirement for social distancing does drive home the importance of having additional options made available for processing the health certificates without face-to-face contact.”
Although the CFIA says the program will help limit face-to-face interaction, speed has been the program’s main draw.
The agency argues that the web portal will shorten time needed for export certificates by hours or even days, as it eliminates the need for producers to mail or hand-deliver paperwork for signatures.
The program requires veterinarians and producers to set up accounts through the My CFIA portal. Once accounts are active, paperwork can flow digitally between producer, veterinarian and the CFIA.
Stonewall bison producer Leonard Epp previously told the Manitoba Co-operator that the program shortened his paperwork window from around three hours to half an hour.
Epp was the first test subject for the pilot in December 2019.
“When you’re on your account, your vet’s attached to your account and as soon as you send it, they get it and now they sign it; it goes into CFIA; they stamp it and it’s back in your computer and you print it off,” he told the Manitoba Co-operator earlier this year. “It’s saved a ton of time already.”
Cattle and bison will become the latest commodities folded into the My CFIA platform once the program is fully launched in June. The agency launched My CFIA in 2017 and has been gradually moving CFIA activities for different trade goods online through the portal.