July 2005 -- Bluetongue and anaplasmosis regulations have been an impediment to moving sheep across our northern border into Canada for some time now. In April, the United States, Canada and Mexico agreed upon a single North American import standard as it relates to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), stating that livestock-trade regulations would be based on sound science, rather than politics. However, these same standards are not being applied to import regulations on feeder lambs in regards to bluetongue and anaplasmosis.
The Canadian regulations date back to the 1960s. Although at that time, these regulations had no real impact on either country. It wasn?t until the 1980s, when Canadian producers got into the feedlot business and wanted to import U.S. feeder cattle, that these regulations became a problem.
Since that time, Canada has altered its import protocols and made the announcement in 2004 that they would allow feeder cattle from 39 low bluetongue-risk states to be exported into Canada year-round without testing. This change in regulation was made because it had been discovered and accepted that the risk of bluetongue being carried/transmitted among healthy cattle and sheep is through an insect vector, which doesn?t exist in Canada, except possibly in a defined, small region. Communication to the Canadian Sheep Federation (CSF) was initiated by the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) in March of 2004 calling for equivalent protocol for exporting feeder sheep into Canada.
Almost a year later, the CSF finally responded to ASI?s letter in January, stating, ?The CSF strongly believes that trade policies should be developed and based on science (but)?the CSF has decided to continue to endorse the current Canadian import policies with relation to bluetongue, anaplasmosis and sheep.?
These two statements are contradicting. If the CSF was truly interested in building science-based animal health equivalency in our trade regulations, they would accept sheep from the 39 low-risk states to cross the border without onerous testing that is not today considered to be scientifically necessary.
Neither ASI nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have given up on these ridiculous regulations. In fact, just recently, APHIS met with leaders from Canada and Mexico discussing this very issue. Although APHIS admits progress has been slow; they are compiling research information to use in working with their Canadian and Mexican counterparts.
On another note, I want to thank all of the producer leaders who dedicated their time to-date working on the Lamb Livestock Risk Protection plan, especially Maragaret Soulen Hinson, ASI executive board member from Idaho and insurance taskforce chairman. Although we did receive an ?intent to disapprove? at the April 28 meeting of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, we did receive some encouraging words from Jim Butler, Ph.D., deputy undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, during our USDA meetings in Washington, D.C., during the first week of May.
We were told not to ?think the door had been closed for a price-insurance product for sheep.? I assure you, industry leaders are dedicated to establishing a program such as this, and will do all they can to gain its approval and implementation.