WASHINGTON (B)--Canadian Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief told reporters July 11 that he urged his U.S. counterpart not to remove the USDA seal of approval, as urged by U.S. beef producers, from imported Canadian cattle.

Vanclief said he delivered the message personally to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, but received no indication of how the United States will settle the dispute over whether Canadian-origin cattle will continue to be treated as if they were processed in the United States.

Under current U.S. rules, imported cattle carcasses can receive the USDA seal of approval as long as further processing occurs in the United States.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association filed a petition with USDA several years ago asking the agency to withdraw the USDA grade seal from carcasses imported into the United States. According to a spokeswoman for NCBA, the organization believes that grading imported animal carcasses "is not fair" and gives consumers the illusion that they are eating U.S. meat when they are not.

Van Clief stressed to reporters that removing the labels would be "nothing but harmful" to Canadian exporters, U.S. importers and North American trade in general.

The NCBA spokeswoman said that the organization expects USDA to rule on its petition as early as this week.

Much of the ire at imported meat bearing USDA grade seals is aimed at Canada, which exports cattle and hog carcasses to U.S. packers. The NCBA is also demanding "country-of-origin" labeling for meat sold in the U.S.

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