Citing evidence of Canada's failure to enforce measures to control mad cow disease, bipartisan legislation was introduced Thursday that stops the USDA from implementing its controversial plan to reopen the Canadian border to cattle trade.
If adopted by Congress, the "resolution of disapproval" authored by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., would nullify USDA's ruling designating Canada as a "minimal-risk" region for mad cow. The resolution would, in effect, close the door on the USDA's plan to allow for Canadian cattle imports to resume on March 7.
"It is outrageous for USDA to continue pushing forward with this decision to renew cattle trade with Canada — a country known to have mad cow in its herd and a record of failure in its attempts to ban illegal feed," Conrad says. "Instead of taking precautions to protect our markets and our consumers, USDA is playing a game of chance. But I'm not willing to put the American public and the American beef industry at risk."
Conrad's main concern pertains to newspaper reports that government tests discovered animal tissue in more than half the "vegetable-only" cattle feed. Conrad says this raises questions as to whether Canada has an effective feed ban in place.
Conrad, a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has urged Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns to reconsider the "minimal risk" ruling, citing Canada's feed ban violations. USDA has been unwilling to review its ruling.
"It now appears that the only way to stop this rule from going forward is for the Congress to block it. Then perhaps we can have a meaningful dialogue on how to ensure the safety of the U.S. cattle herd and help open export markets," Conrad says.
The "resolution of disapproval" is cosponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Harry Reid, D-N.V., Craig Thomas, R-Wy., Michael Enzi, R-Wy., Max Baucus, D-Mont., Ken Salazar, D-Col., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.