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Cross-Border Beef Costs Truckers, Shippers Thousands

OTTAWA — Canadian truckers were fuming back in October when the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) temporarily suspended meat inspections at the Portal, ND/North Portal, SK and Emerson, MB/Pembina, ND border crossings.

The suspension lasted for over a week and only became known after the fact. According to reports, the suspension was over a dispute between the USDA and the private company contracted to provide the meat inspections.

In a statement released today, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) said it is asking federal Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast, to speak with his counterpart in the United States about ensuring inspectors of Canadian meat product exports are always available at the Canada-US border.

"Trucks carrying meat products were required to re-route through Montana and Michigan — adding up to 1,200 miles to some trips — and Canadian meat suppliers were hit with tens of thousands of dollars per day in increased shipping costs," the CTA said.

According to the CTA, the company holding the inspection contract had been sold and was advised by USDA that it needed to apply for a licence extension or a new licence in order to continue providing meat inspections.

For whatever reason, the company didn't get it licence requirements together. But rather than find an alternative solution — and despite the fact the company’s facilities, staff, and inspectors remained the same as prior to the change in ownership — the USDA instead chose to penalize the company by prohibiting it from providing meat inspection service.

Bob Dolyniuk, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA), became aware of the situation after receiving calls from a number of carrier members.

“The USDA did not engage another party to conduct the inspections during this period or make any other contingencies; it simply closed the inspections down with no apparent thought to the disruptive and costly impact this would have on the trade," Dolyniuk explained. “They (USDA) didn’t even inform the US Customs and Border Protection Agency of what was going on — MTA had to do that.”

A Complete Communications Vacuum

“From what we can tell, USDA didn’t even alert the US meat importers so that contingency plans could be implemented,” said David Bradley, CEO ofthe trucking alliance. “There was a complete communications vacuum."

There is no justification for USDA penalizing its contractors by closing down port services and "throwing the trade into chaos," Bradley commented.

"When something like this happens, it really makes you wonder what some people are thinking.”

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Canadian Trucking Alliance US Department of Agriculture meat inspection.