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Published March 18, 2013, 10:58 AM

Latest news

Federal legislation would ban horse slaughter in the U.S., American Crystal asks North Dakota Supreme Court to rehear case that granted unemployment benefits to its workers, and a federal bill would address veterinarian shortage.

By: Agweek Wire Reports, Agweek

Canada may retaliate over new US meat labeling plan

•The Canadian government is warning Washington it may retaliate if the U.S. brings in a new, more restrictive trade rule on how beef and pork product exports are labeled. The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal announced March 8 calls for foreign producers to list on the package of meat products where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered, as well as other packaging restrictions. “The proposed changes will increase the discrimination against exports of cattle and hogs from Canada and increase damages to Canadian industry,” Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says. The U.S. says the new rule would help it comply with a World Trade Organization decision last year that found its country-of-origin labeling regulation discriminated against Canada and Mexico. The Canadian government has said one year after that regulation was imposed by Washington in 2008, shipments of Canadian cattle into the U.S. dropped by half and exports of slaughter hogs declined by 58 percent. Ritz calls the new proposed rule “extremely” disappointing and says it would make the discrimination worse, hurting Canadian producers and the meat industry. He says Ottawa will respond if the U.S. doesn’t back off, but did not say how. “Our government will consider all options, including retaliatory measures, should the U.S. not achieve compliance by May 23, 2013, as mandated by the WTO.” The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the Canadian Pork Council issued statements saying they share Ottawa’s concerns. The pork council estimates the U.S. government’s current meat labeling rule has already cost Canada about $1 billion per year in reduced beef and cattle exports. “The proposed rule is supposed to remove discrimination found by the WTO after a lengthy expensive challenge by Canada,” the council said in a release. “It does not do this, indeed, it exacerbates the problems.” USDA says its country-of-origin rule is designed to help consumers make informed decisions about the food products they buy.

Federal legislation would ban slaughter of US horses

•Proposed federal legislation would ban the export of American horses for slaughter, reinstitute a ban on slaughtering them in the U.S., and protect the public from consuming “toxic” horse meat. The measure, called the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, comes after revelations that horse meat has been mislabeled as beef in Europe. Sponsors include Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. The bill would outlaw the killing of American horses for human consumption and prohibit transporting the animals across the U.S. border for slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Proponents of the bill contend that tens of thousands of American horses a year are exported for slaughter in a foreign industry that produces unsafe food for consumers. A federal ban on slaughtering horses in the U.S. took effect in 2006, but the law lapsed in 2011, opening the door for a New Mexico company to open a slaughterhouse there soon. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced its plan to process an application for inspecting horse slaughter at Valley Meat Co. LLC in Roswell, N.M. Valley Meat Co. owner Rick de los Santos told the Los Angeles Times in December that a new horse slaughterhouse in his state makes sense. He says he is tired of sitting in southern New Mexico and watching countless truckloads of American horses en route to Mexico for slaughter. But animal advocates say when it comes to horse slaughter, there is no such thing as “humane.”

American Crystal Sugar asks ND Supreme Court to rehear case

•BISMARCK, N.D. — Lawyers for American Crystal Sugar Co. are asking the North Dakota Supreme Court to reconsider a decision to grant locked-out workers unemployment benefits. The petition to rehear the case recently was filed with the state Supreme Court last week. The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled last month that more than 400 locked-out workers in North Dakota are eligible for unemployment benefits from Job Service North Dakota. That decision reversed a lower court’s ruling that said the workers were not eligible for benefits from Job Service North Dakota because state law prohibits unemployment insurance for workers involved in labor disputes. Nearly 1,300 American Crystal Sugar workers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa have been locked out since Aug. 1, 2011, after their union rejected the cooperative’s proposed contract. Crystal Sugar spokesman Brian Ingulsud says the company pays into an insurance fund so the unemployment benefits “have an impact on us.” Fargo, N.D., attorney Dan Phillips, who represented the locked-out workers, says he’s disappointed Crystal Sugar is trying to get the state Supreme Court to change its mind. “Crystal Sugar is doing nothing more than trying to be punitive to its locked-out workers and punish them even further,” he says.

Bill addresses veterinarian shortage

•WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, on March 13 continued efforts to end the shortfall of veterinarians in rural areas by reintroducing the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act. The legislation would provide a federal income tax exemption for payments received under the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program and similar state programs that encourage veterinarians to practice in smaller and rural communities. “The shortage of veterinarians in our rural communities has a huge impact on our farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods depend on access to animal care,” Johnson says. “The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program is a critical tool to expanding access to veterinary care.” He says the legislation has the potential to increase the number of veterinarians placed in underserved and shortage areas by more than 30 percent.