Canada studying ways to cope with mad cow crisis

Saturday, July 26, 2003

TORONTO -- Government officials announced additional aid for Canada's beleaguered cattle industry Friday, responding to a mad cow disease scare that has led 35 countries to ban Canadian beef.

Alberta beef producers will receive a total of $136 million, Ontario $12.5 million, and Saskatchewan $8.6 million, officials said.

Those funds will augment $136 million in federal aid. Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief said there could be more funds if provinces sign on to a new agricultural policy.

The crisis began after the discovery of a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Northern Alberta on May 20. That announcement prompted key international trading partners to shut their borders to exports of Canadian beef and cattle.

With no evidence that the disease has entered the food supply, many Canadians are eating more beef to support an industry struggling to offset lost exports with more domestic demand.

Canadian politicians said this week that they are looking for diplomatic means to get the border reopened to beef exports.

The U.S. and Canadian cattle industries are highly integrated. Animals regularly trade across the border, and last year Canada sent 70 percent of its exported cattle -- nearly 1.7 million animals -- to its southern neighbor.

Canada announced last week that it is changing its beef slaughter system to eliminate any tissue that could transmit mad cow disease from carcasses.

Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew said he intends to raise the beef ban issue with his counterparts during a World Trade Organization meeting in Montreal next week.

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