Animal disease outbreaks won’t disrupt trade between Canada and the United States once a new zoning agreement comes into effect.
However, the implementation of that agreement could be a year or two away.
Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz announced Jan. 16 that the two countries have agreed to recognize each other’s control measures in the event of highly contagious outbreaks of diseases such as avian influenza or foot-and-mouth that have the potential to disrupt trade.
It means that an outbreak in one province wouldn’t necessarily prevent trade of livestock and meat products from other provinces.
Designated control zones would be restricted while trade could carry on outside the zone.
“Cross-border trade in live animals, meat and other animal products and byproducts contributes billions of dollars each year to Canada’s economy,” Ritz said in a statement. “This arrangement will keep U.S. market opportunities open for Canadian producers should a foreign animal disease outbreak occur, all while protecting human and animal health.”
Ian Alexander, Canada’s chief veterinary officer, said it will be months, if not a year or two, before the final guidelines are in place, but they will be focused on diseases that could spread rapidly from animal to animal.
Each province and state has control measures that have to be examined, and industry must be consulted before the agreement can be implemented, he said.
“Our focus is on going forward where we’re looking at diseases like avian influenza where we can effectively establish a control zone around an area that might be affected,” Alexander said.
“I couldn’t say at this point in time whether it would be as small as an individual farm, but certainly an area within a province.”
Each country intends to accept the other’s decisions on establishing, maintaining and releasing disease control and eradication zones. The final framework will lay out the agreed-upon processes.
In the meantime, practical measures could be taken similar to 2007 when a control zone was established around an avian influenza outbreak in Canada but full trade was not disrupted.
The two countries have exchanged science-based information about their veterinary structures, surveillance and regulations.
Discussions might take place with other countries in the future, Alexander said.
The discussion and agreement are a result of a commitment made in December 2011 by the joint action plan of the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Co-operation Council, which is working to align regulations while maintaining animal health and public safety.
Alexander said the zoning agreement is one of the “early ones out of the gate.”