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Government reviewing beef trade with Canada

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Agriculture Department is resurrecting its plan to allow older Canadian cattle and beef products across the border. A new risk assessment on older animals, which are thought to be more likely to contract mad cow disease, rec...

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Agriculture Department is resurrecting its plan to allow older Canadian cattle and beef products across the border.

A new risk assessment on older animals, which are thought to be more likely to contract mad cow disease, recenty was sent to the White House for consideration but wasn't publicly announced.

The review by the White House's Office of Management and Budget is the first step toward eventually resuming trade.

The effort was halted in July when Canada discovered a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a 4-year-old cow, born long after a ban on using cattle remains in feed went into effect in 1997 to guard against the spread of the disease.

U.S. officials were considering the effectiveness of safeguards north of the border when Canada reported its eighth case in August.

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Canada still is considered to be at minimal risk of introducing BSE into the United States.

The U.S. government banned all Canadian beef and cattle in May 2003 after Canada's first domestic mad cow case, but started allowing trade in younger cattle younger than 30 months in July 2005.

R-CALF's request

An American ranchers' group still is trying to halt Canadian imports, saying they're too dangerous.

R-CALF, based in Montana, is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to reconsider an earlier decision to allow the cattle trade to resume.

In early November, the court ruled against the Agriculture Department's request that it drop the case without hearing all the evidence since it already had ruled on the matter once.

No date has been set for a hearing.

R-CALF originally won an injunction against the U.S. government's decision to reopen the border to younger cows, prolonging a crisis for Canadian beef producers.

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The United States has had three cases of mad cow.

Canada shipped $1.2 billion (U.S.) worth of beef and veal to U.S. markets last year.

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