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Comment: Let us slash some red tape

With Donald Trump pledging to take a knife to government regulations to stoke the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans, Canadians can only hope some of this zeal rubs off on Canadian bureaucrats.

Of course, this is a faint hope.

Canadian cattlemen, for example, are already preparing to adjust their own business plans to account for more regulations in the coming year. Transportation and traceability are two current areas where the regulatory engine is picking up steam.

Neither come as a surprise to cattle producers. Both have been on the back burner for years, and the beef industry has spent a good deal of coin doing what it can to inject as much common sense as possible into the discussions by funding research projects, developing certification programs and educational programming for producers and bureaucrats.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s regulatory amendments on the humane transport of animals are now known and people have until February 15 to comment on them.

Under the new rules the maximum time animals can go without food, water and rest has been reduced to 12 hours from 18 for young animals not exclusively on hay and grain and from 52 to 36 hours for ruminants that only eat hay and grain.

Beyond those times the cattle need to be off-loaded for food and water and eight hours of rest. The same exception also applies to any animal that becomes dehydrated or shows signs of exhaustion or nutritional deficiencies while on the transport.

The details are found on the CFIA website, if you haven’t seen them already.

What’s of more interest, I think, is the reasons given for introducing new stiffer regulations. To introduce consistency with OIE animal welfare standards for the transport of animals and the animal welfare standards of other countries, as well as increase compliance, improve animal welfare, reduce death loss/suffering and increase consumer confidence in animal food products.

Sounds good, yet most of the research shows that the vast majority of transported cattle in this country arrives just fine. Studies by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers found that 99.95 per cent of animals on truck over four hours reached their destination free of injury (99.98 per cent on trips under four hours). The average long haul was 16 hours and 95 per cent of them were under 30 hours. These results are well within the new guidelines, and with excellent outcomes. So what’s the problem?

It makes one wonder if the cattle industry has got caught up in some itch that CFIA needed to scratch to placate a political concern versus a real one, but no matter, there is no stopping it now.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association was still preparing its comment on the new regulations as this issue went to press but there were a couple of items we learned that will be in its document.

One is the requirement for someone to be physically present at a slaughter yard, auction market, assembly yard or feedlot to sign for and receive the cattle. There are many situations where that would be an unrealistic expectation and would impose unnecessary costs, particularly on smaller operations.

CCA will also be suggesting CFIA inject some clearly defined flexibility into the time limits for trips to account for unforeseen circumstances. Forcing a trucker to off-load cattle in an unknown area and load them up eight hours later because his trip clock ran down, may well be a lot harder on the cattle than another few hours on the truck. The science is still unclear about which is best for the welfare of the animals, so the regulations should reflect that ambiguity

Cattlemen are also seeking less subjective definitions for terms that go into determining an animal is compromised or unfit. Terms like “slightly lame” are in the eye of the beholder.

The other regulation in the offing will create a more robust traceability program that will require mandatory premises identification and animal movement reporting. It too has been the subject of intense debate by government and industry almost from the time mandatory animal identification was introduced in July 2001.

Again, after much research and lobbying the industry believed it had hammered out agreement with CFIA on a Cattle Implementation Plan that took account of the practicalities of raising and moving large bovines from one place to another. That was 2011.

The plan was updated as research results came in and technology improved. But somewhere along the line the goals changed inside the Ottawa offices of CFIA. The bureaucrats started asking for more control, more reading sites in situations that were totally impractical in today’s cattle business, and the industry started to balk.

In December discussions opened up again and it appears a compromise has been struck to put traceability back on the rails.

The upshot is, someday later this year or early next, you could again be asked to comment on a new set of regulations for mandatory traceability of cattle.

Whether it will radically shorten the time it takes to run down TB reactors, or other diseased animals has yet to be known, but it is coming nonetheless.

I hate to envy Americans anything, but when it comes to cutting red tape, Trump has a better idea.

About the author

Editor

Gren Winslow is editor of Canadian Cattlemen.

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