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Beef Industry Supportive of Meeting BSE Testing Targets

by 5m Editor
10 August 2004, at 12:00am

CANADA - The Alberta beef industry recognizes the importance of BSE surveillance testing and is committed to helping Canada meet its international testing requirements says Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) Chairman Arno Doerksen.

The Gem-area rancher made the comment in response to erroneous reports that cattle producers are not cooperating with BSE surveillance programs.

Last week, the Alberta Auditor General's report on BSE-related assistance programs recommended that Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (AAFRD), working with the federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the beef and related industries, ensure that Alberta meets its contribution to Canada's BSE testing quota.

"In comments to the report, the Auditor General discussed the importance of producers presenting sufficient numbers of samples from older animals for testing. Subsequent comments by representatives of CFIA and resulting news clips have implied that producers may not be cooperating with the surveillance testing initiative leading to delays in borders opening to Canadian beef," says Doerksen.

"That, in fact, is not the case and the suggestion that ranchers have been careless or uncooperative with regard to testing protocols is offensive to cattle producers and we need to set the record straight."

The CFIA and AAFRD have been working on a program since March 2004 to facilitate the collection of BSE test samples. The intent of the program is to offset some of the costs of BSE surveillance testing for the cattle industry. Beef producers continue to wait for both levels of government to finalize program details.

"Progress on the surveillance program has been hampered by the fact that important logistical elements to facilitate the collection of samples are still not in place," says Doerksen.

"That program needs to be implemented and well-communicated to cattle producers and the industry as soon as possible to ensure Canada meets international testing requirements."

Canada is on target to meet its national BSE surveillance target of 8000 higher-risk animals this year. Alberta's share of the national total is approximately 2,700 animals of which 900 have been tested so far this year. The national surveillance target for next year will increase to 30,000 animals.

"Currently Alberta producers who wish to participate in the surveillance program are faced with paying the costs of collecting and submitting samples. It is not feasible to expect producers to bear the full costs of submitting samples after the economic impacts of a year of drought and a year of BSE," says Doerksen.

"While producers are concerned about the potential impact of the discovery of additional BSE cases, we believe the main hindrance to producer participation in BSE surveillance testing is the fact the program has not yet been finalized by government."

"The impact of trade restrictions due to the discovery of a cow with BSE in Alberta last May has been devastating. Typically the beef industry has contributed a $2 to 3 billion trade surplus to the Canadian economy and we are eager to return to those days again. Meeting our surveillance testing requirements will help the industry regain additional export markets," concludes Doerksen.

The chairman and vice chairman of the Alberta Beef Producers will be available for media interviews concerning BSE surveillance testing and other industry issues from 11 am to 1 pm at the ABP office, 320, 6715 - 8th Street, Calgary. Interested media who are unable to attend should call the ABP office at (403) 275-4400 to make special arrangements.

Source: CNW Telbec - 9th August 2004

5m Editor