BSE In Fraser Valley Festers Amid More Farm Protest at Food Terminals

I’m a big fan of Famous British rocker David Bowie. It didn’t come naturally. I’ve seen him in concert more than I ever wanted to. I let you figure out the rest. His song, “We Can Be Heroes Just For One Day” reminds me a lot of the past winter of 2005/06.

It will go down as the most militant winter in recent Canadian farm history. At each juncture one farmer or another has seized the day pushing the farm agenda forward. In my mind, they were “heroes for one day”. Now that a new crop year is about to start farmers will need to measure what happened and just where they want to take these protests into the future.

Following the Ottawa Solidarity Farm Rally some of the tractors on Wellington Street left to slow down traffic going into the food terminal near Ottawa. This was followed this past week by the same thing at food terminals in Cambridge and Whitby Ontario. It’s a gutsy move by farmers. Doing something that compromises the food supply would certainly wake up the consumer population. In Canada the idea of an interrupted food supply is unheard of.

The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association have criticized the move. That surprised me. Ontario’s fruit and vegetables are constantly replaced on store shelves by foreign imports of even cheaper food. I know they are concerned about the perishable nature of their products, but surely they have issues with regard to cheap imports. I know in southwestern Ontario many grain and oilseed farmers have complained to local supermarkets about the abundance of foreign grown fruits and vegetables when Ontario produce is readily available. Deriding their protest now isn’t good public relations.

But it is what it is. It would be a panacea to say everybody agreed with each other this past winter. They surely didn’t and that will surely continue. While I was speaking on the second day on Parliament Hill, one rogue street person decided to yell at me about solar energy. Apparently he had no trouble with the agricultural policy of the day. Having said that many of the rest of us do.

Keep in mind when the protests first started you had federal Liberal agriculture ministers saying the CAIS program was the only game in town. Telling farm leaders to buzz off seemed to be blood sport. Now you have a different government and a federal agriculture minister saying that CAIS doesn’t work and will be scrapped. He’s saddled with several provincial governments who want to keep the cost certainty of CAIS. Clearly those provincial governments are in farmers’ cross hairs.

Festering under the radar during all of these winter protests is our livestock industry still trying to deal with the vestiges of mad cow. Unfortunately as this week dawned it looks like we might have one more Canadian mad cow. What about that dairy cow in the Fraser valley, which has preliminarily tested positive for BSE?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported the cow reacted positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy on five separate rapid-screening tests. Further testing is being done. If the positive test is confirmed it would be the fifth BSE case in Canada. Three other cases of BSE came out of Alberta and one from Saskatchewan.

It’s troubling for anybody in the beef industry. Losses from BSE have been colossal, something that will probably not be made up in many beef producers lifetime. This latest case further delays any US ruling about allowing Canadian cattle into the US above the age of 30 months. It’s muddies the water just enough to delay everything further.

What’s also troubling is how this cow got BSE. It is the second cow born after the 1997 ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban in the United States and Canada. So did the cow get BSE through some type of cross contamination or did it just naturally occur? You have to wonder.

We also still have R-Calf, the American beef lobby group who are still trying to keep Canadian beef out. Montana judge Richard Cebull has stopped R-Calf’s request for a hearing on a permanent injunction on the US import of Canadian beef. A previous appeals court has hand cuffed him. Now they are turning their fire on keeping older Canadian cattle out of the US. With BSE suddenly showing up in B.C., they’ve got a little bit more ammunition.

I once heard from one of my American readers who is an R-Calf member. He told me I’d make a good R-Calf member. I didn’t really know what to say, so I said thank-you. I would probably be their very first Canadian member. I’d surely be branded a Benedict Arnold in Canada.

So let me remind my American readers Benedict Arnold was a hero in Canada and George Washington was a rebel. I don’t know which category I find myself in, but I did stand up and hurl vitriol at five different farm rallies this past winter. Simply put as Canadian farmers we have issues. It is not time to get discouraged. In the end we will win this. The journey in many ways has just got started.