Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay says he will rely on the expertise of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency when it comes to truck-washing regulations.
Speaking to reporters following a recent announcement in Winnipeg, the minister said he recognizes that pork producers and processors want to wash livestock trailers in Canada and not the United States, where porcine epidemic diarrhea is rampant, but that he is not in a position to change the regulations.
“It’s very difficult for me to overrule the regulations continually,” said MacAulay. “I am the government, but I am not a scientist.”
He acknowledged the disease has been a huge issue south of the border, but said the inspection agency has indicated washing swine-hauling trailers before they return to Canada is the right approach.
The Manitoba Pork Council disagrees and has been working to convince the agency otherwise.
“I think that it’s pure logic that if there is more disease down south and they use recycled water in their wash facilities, that it is a time bomb,” said Pork Council president George Matheson. “It will only be a matter of time before more PEDv enters the province because of that, so we’re hoping that between the minister and CFIA that they closely look at it and perhaps make a regional protocol for us.”
For two years an emergency federal protocol allowed empty hog trucks coming into Manitoba from the U.S. to be cleaned and disinfected on the Manitoba side of the border. That protocol ended in May.
A short time later three Manitoba hog farms were hit by the virus, ending a nearly 16-month-long disease hiatus. While no definitive link between the outbreak and the end of the temporary protocol has been made, industry stakeholders have expressed strong suspicions that the two occurrences are related.
Matheson noted while washing trucks in the U.S. might make sense for exporters in other regions of the country, Manitoba’s geography keeps it rather isolated in many ways.
“We’re in a unique position because there’s really only one main route used to bring in trailers returning from the U.S.,” he said.
Talks on the issue are continuing and the Pork Council and inspection agency have met as recently as last week.
“We’ve been looking at it closely and we think that between the three groups, Manitoba Pork, the CFIA and the federal government, that we will come up with a solution that works,” said Matheson. “We are working together.”