Canadian cattle imported to Washington

Editor's note: After sending this letter, PCC received a reply from the Governor saying she did not use her line-item veto authority, and did sign the measure into law.

March 19, 2008

Governor Chris Gregoire
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, Washington 98504-0002

Dear Governor Gregoire,

I'm writing to urge you to exercise your executive authority to head off a potential food safety and economic problem. On behalf of our cattle ranching businessmen and the health and safety of our consumers across the state, I urge you to implement your line-item veto powers and eliminate Section 28 of EHG 3381.

The measures called for in Section 28 were opposed — they were voted down, in fact — by Senator Rasmussen, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and the Agriculture Committee as a whole. We understand that Section 28 was offered up AFTER the cutoff date for new bills. Nonetheless, Section 28 was resurrected somehow in a Friday night maneuver and folded into an omnibus bill, which apparently included a range of measures involving state fees, and as one big package was passed on the floor in a split vote.

There are undoubtedly some powerful interests that want this measure implemented, as noted below. But as a grocery retailer, with $115 million in sales per year and 40,000 member households, we implore you to exercise your line-item veto power and eliminate Section 28 in EHG 3381.

Section 28 essentially would legitimize the flow of Canadian cattle over the border into Washington — without meeting our state health inspection requirements. This is not right. The checks and inspections should be done BEFORE they ever cross our borders.

Washington state already requires checks and inspections for animals crossing the border from Idaho or Oregon (and vice versa) and USDA rules require such checks and inspections for Mexican cattle crossing the border. Canada should not be an exception.

Section 28 also makes no sense in creating a funding program to pay for another country's animal health issues, especially for cattle from Canada, where more than 10 cows already have been confirmed to be carrying BSE/Mad Cow disease.

Already, Canadian cattle come over the border and nobody checks or inspects them for anything until they get to their destination — whether it's a finishing lot, slaughterhouse, or even a dairy farm — no checks, no brand inspection, no brucellosis or TB test until they reach their destination.

They can cross the border and move to any destination anywhere in the state — untracked — until they're unloaded, wherever that may be. Only then does the state come in to check paperwork and inspect them. If they're carrying something, it's too late to keep them out of our state.

We need to back up and ensure that all incoming cattle from over the Canadian border are properly inspected and meet our requirements BEFORE entry into the country.

We understand that large dairy interests and industrial scale feedlots and packers want those cows from over the border because they're cheaper generally, and they want a free flow of cows without restrictions that slow down the pace of commerce. But profits for the few should not come at the expense of our state's economic interests as a whole or our consumers' food safety and health.

Sanctioning the practices ensured by Section 28 puts food safety on the line and threatens the economic livelihood of our state's cattle ranchers.

Please exercise your line-item veto power and eliminate Section 28 of EHB3381.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Tracy Wolpert
Chief Executive Officer

Cc: Sen. Ken Jacobsen
      Marty Brown
      Cindy Zehnder

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