Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has issued an order to stop specific Canadian cattle from passing through the state's export facilities into Mexico.
“I am deeply disappointed that Canada has signed a live cattle trading protocol with Mexico that is inconsistent with international standards,” Commissioner Staples said. “The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) standards are paramount in ensuring trade decisions are based on sound science and not political science.”
Initial reports stated the U.S. had signed off on this agreement between Canada and Mexico, allowing the trade of certain dairy and beef cattle less than 30 months of age — including breeding stock. However, Staples confirmed through high-level conversations with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials that the U.S. has in fact not approved the pact. Rather, USDA officials have expressed disappointment with their counterparts in Canada for yielding confirmed science to political maneuvering.
“If USDA allows these cattle to cross the Canadian border into the U.S., they will not move through the Texas Department of Agriculture's export facilities along the Mexican border,” Staples said. “I have instructed TDA employees overseeing the agency's livestock export facilities along the Mexican border to not facilitate the trade of any Canadian cattle that would be inconsistent with the protocol for exporting U.S. cattle to Mexico.”
Currently, Mexico will only allow the importation of U.S. dairy heifers under the age of 24 months, despite in-depth international negotiations to broaden this to breeding stock. Staples is asking states that border Mexico to follow Texas' lead.
“I call upon the owners and managers of all livestock export facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border to join me in this effort,” Staples said. “Please remember your most important customers — the U.S. livestock producers. Until Mexico recognizes OIE trading standards and begins to accept U.S. breeding cattle consistent with those standards, we will continue this firm prohibition of specific Canadian cattle.”
TDA manages five livestock export facilities on the border in Brownsville, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, El Paso, and Laredo. Additionally, there are two privately owned livestock export facilities in Texas and three other facilities in New Mexico and Arizona.
In December 2003, a single Canadian-born cow in the state of Washington was confirmed to have Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). Since then, the U.S. has worked with Mexico as well as trading partners around the world to reestablish beef and live cattle trade consistent with international standards. Several countries have recognized those standards and are accepting U.S. live cattle. In May 2007, the OIE formally classified the U.S. as a controlled risk country for BSE. This classification, combined with strong U.S. regulatory safeguards, allows broad trade of beef and live cattle consistent with international standards.
In January, Mexican and U.S. officials signed an agreement to establish a livestock-working group to resolve many outstanding issues. Staples will offer any assistance to the group to come up with a solution that benefits both nations.
“Mexico must recognize international standards and allow the importation of U.S. breeding stock immediately,” Staples said. “I consider both Mexico and Canada to be excellent markets for Texas products, just as Texans consume many Mexican-made products. I look forward to these issues being resolved soon.”