History: Embargo ended

Reprinted from the January 1953 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

On Saturday, November 29, 1952 Washington announced that barring further outbreaks of Foot and Mouth disease in Canada the U.S. sanitary embargo would be removed on March 1, 1953. Subsequently Ottawa announced that the system of import permits covering livestock and meats would be withdrawn on the same date.

As a matter of record, the U.S. announcement came exactly three months and ten days after the Canadian government announced that Foot and Mouth in Canada was ended. The actual lifting of the embargo will be approximately ten months after the last secondary outbreak at Weyburn, Sask. (outbreak April 29, eradication by May 3).

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Obviously the announcement was a compromise with the advice given the U.S. Department of Agriculture on June 11th by the U.S. Industry Advisory Committee and accepted by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Brannan, that the embargo against Canadian imports should not be removed within 12 months of the last outbreak or on May 1, 1953. It is thought the precarious feed situation in the New England and Southern dairy states badly affected by drought and the resulting high prices for feed, importation of that item being prohibited by the embargo was the chief reason for the earlier lifting of the ban. No doubt also the representations of the Canadian government which has been accumulating large quantities of meats and those of the U.S. Livestock Sanitary Association of which Canada’s Veterinary Director General Dr. T. Childs was recently elected president were given careful consideration.

Marketwise, should the embargo be lifted tomorrow, there would be no price advantage for Canadian exports. Home prices when U.S. duty, transportation charges, handling and feeding costs and discount on U.S. funds are considered are higher than the U.S. level of prices. The disparity in some classes is at present substantial enough to start a flow of cattle and beef from the U.S. to certain areas of Canada. That this disparity will soon disappear is certain. Government support prices for cattle and beef will terminate on March 1st, and the laws of supply and demand will operate to bring continental markets together. As cattle numbers in Western Canada continue to build up surplus marketings will develop (notwithstanding the increase in population which is taking place) and these will be priced to flow to the Pacific coast markets. This eventually may be expected within a year to eighteen months and will be hastened should drought be experienced in 1953.

Of immediate importance, however, is the effect the announcement has had on the registered beef and dairy cattle industries. These two parts of the cattle industry during the embargo period have not been able to move their surplus and numbers have increased rapidly. The outlook for the spring bull sales and the market for dairy cattle in certain areas were indeed bleak. The announcement that after March 1st, exports to the U.S. may be resumed will encourage producers and speculative buyers to hold.

The Canadian government, with its large volume of pork and beef, will have a market for its holdings. Even now we are hopeful that certain classes of meats — namely canned pork and boneless beef — in Canada may not have to wait until March 1st to commerce her marketings. Undoubtedly the Canadian government will be confronted with a heavy loss on its support operations and the Canadian taxpayer with a substantial bill.

Suggestion — while on March 1st the book will have been closed on the Foot and Mouth experience in Canada there are many thinking men who ponder the question, “Why should intelligent people conducting business in a continental economy allow such a disaster to befall one of the partners in the greatest economic bastion of the free world.”

Canadian agriculture, almost overnight, suffered a disappearance of livestock values to the extent of over a billion dollars. Some estimates which include the reduction of capital values of ranches and farms run as high as two billion. These are staggering figures, exceeding as they do the total market value of the Canadian Pacific Railway — the world’s greatest transportation system — and roughly twice the value of the entire agriculture production of Alberta’s 90,000 farm families in 1952, a bumper year. And yet the outbreak itself was confined to a small area in Saskatchewan where the destruction of several thousand farm animals and their value and the cost of eradication totalled less than one half million dollars.

Obviously a new approach to the contagious livestock disease problem is required.

In this period of world friction between those nations which believe in the dignity of man and are attempting to protect his hard-won freedoms and those who hold that man is only an instrument of the state, we have on this continent resolved to defend ourselves and our friends and are practicing co-operation in the field of arms production and military procedures. Yet we leave ourselves wide open on the matter of contagious disease control and act like children in permitting an economic loss of several billion dollars to tug at the strength of over one half million farm families in the northern half of the continental food rampart of the free world.

Fortunately we have learned that Canadian and American veterinarians can work closely together as they did in the Saskatchewan outbreak and that experience no doubt hastened the date upon which the embargo would be removed. However, the suggestion is now made that this co-operation should be recognized and formalized by the appointment of a joint Contagious Livestock Disease Committee which will act immediately if and when a contagious disease strikes in Canada or the U.S., in war and in peace and that sufficient authority be delegated to the committee so there would be no question about continuation of commerce in and between all areas outside the established quarantine area.

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