August 7, 2002
Crooked Cops at USDA and Packers and Stockyards
Bill Lehman, USDA meat inspector from Sweetgrass, Montana called attention to the lack of meat inspection on the Canadian border. He was ridiculed, discredited, and told to move to Oklahoma to inspect chickens. USDA is again moving people around to prevent people from doing their jobs and block enforcement. John Barthel from the Packers and Stockyards regional poultry office in Atlanta, Georgia has been appointed as regional beef supervisor in the Denver, Colorado beef office. He is packing his bags today in Atlanta for his move to Denver as his superiors lay on the beach in Hawaii, no doubt looking for anticompetitive behavior.
Why is a chicken man, who doesn’t have experience in the cattle and beef industries, being placed over experienced beef people, who are no doubt are demoralized and frustrated with the inaction of their own agency in addressing anticompetitive practices of the big meat packers? P&S has either failed to act on the complaint, failed to properly prosecute, or sold out every single case that could have made a difference for cattlemen. While cattlemen are being mugged by price fixing meat packers, the government provides cover.
Could it be that big-packer-promoting USDA Secretary Ann Veneman and contract hog farmer and P&S administrator, Donna Reifschneider are in the pockets of the big packers and are determined to force cattlemen into the same serfdom as hog and chicken farmers?
Taxpayers, cattlemen, and our rural communities that are turning into ghettos deserve an investigation of USDA and P&S now.
July 24, 2012
To: House Committee on Agriculture
1301 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Frank D. Lucas:
On July 16, 2012 Canada announced a joint venture with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) identified as the Beyond the Border (BTB) inspection project. USDA FSIS is now working jointly with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to implement a pre-clearance initiative. This initiative consists of a pilot project that will consider alternative methods for reviewing import documents prior to the shipments arrival at the U.S. border and alternative methods for release of shipments that are destined for further processing at an FSIS official establishment (http://canada.usembassy.gov/news-events/2012-news-and-events/july-2012/16-july-2012-usda-cfia-announce-pre-clearance-pilot-project.html). Currently Canadian meat, poultry, and egg products are controlled through a border/port of entry reinspection process. These changes will allow product from Canada to move freely into the United States.
Although these changes may not affect FSIS at this time they will eventually put in place changes that will affect the nation’s public health, welfare, and food defense (Homeland Security). The BTB will change the way FSIS conducts the import reinspection of foreign meat, poultry, and egg products. Currently imported meat, poultry, and egg products are reinspected at the ports, controlling any movement of adulterated or high risk products at the port of entry until a full reinpsection is completed. The new program allows for imported products to move uncontrolled into the interior of the country where it will be reinspected at a domestic establishment by untrained inspectors. It will be only reinspected if it shows up at the final location. There is no control of the movement of this product.
I would like to bring your attention to previous Government Accountability Reports identifying an open border as a concept, previously attempted by FSIS in the 1990’s, that is not acceptable for the reinspection of imported products (see GAO summaries below #1). As you can see from the report highlights:
• FSIS did not adequately document its determination that Canada’s meat inspection system was at least equivalent to the U.S. inspection system,
• FSIS did not have a plan to assess the effectiveness of the proposed open border in ensuring the safety and wholesomeness of imported meat and poultry,
• A lack of control in the open border concept (similar to the BTB)
If you look at the current USDA audits of the Canadian Food Inspection System a documentation of a lack of equivalence in the reinspection process is documented. As you can see the last audit was in 2009 (# 2). As you can also see Canada failed to answer the audit defects that where identified. These defects were considered substantial at the time of the audit. Defects, such as these, if taken care of may have prevented such recalls as the Topps recall of 2007 (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/040_2007_Expanded_Recall.pdf ) where 25 people became sick from eating ground beef supplied from Canadian raw material (beef trim). Canada closed the plant that supplied the raw material and disposed of records when the USDA conducted an audit after the recall.
It should be noted that Canada, to this day, allows a tolerance for listeria in products while the United States has a zero tolerance. Canada accounts for the most import food listeria failures in the United States at this time through port of entry sampling. Canada has done nothing to fix this problem. As well, the USDA FSIS has done nothing to follow up regarding an audit of the Canadian system either.
I must also point out that the data USDA FSIS is using to determine plant eligibility is also skewed. FSIS states they will use data such as:
• No public health violations reported by FSIS at the port-of-entry (POE). CFIA-registered establishments that have public health related (i.e., microbiological or chemical residue) POE violations since the start of 2010, will not be eligible for inclusion.
• Ability to demonstrate control of the flow of product when necessary, as reflected in a clean compliance rate for presenting product to FSIS (i.e., no FSIS-documented failure to present – FTP).
FSIS is excluding defects that are considered public health such as fecal contamination, biological contaminants, and ingesta (to name a few) in the establishment analysis. They are also only using violation data such as documented FTP’s. FSIS has undocumented FTP’s that should also be included in the analysis (these are not being used and unavailable to the public). Data from such systems as the In-Commerce System, Import Alert Tracking System, Source of raw material contamination, and recalls are not being utilized. These systems allow FSIS to track major outbreaks of public health significance in the United States.
The FSIS Homeland Security Risk Assessment and the products considered high risk by the Department of Homeland Security and USDA are considered as freely moving across the border in this pilot. This allows the risk of a 9/11 catastrophe to occur again. Beef products, liquid eggs, chicken nuggets, and deli meats are considered products, if contaminated by terrorists, could cause the most deaths among United States citizens. Canada is identified as one of the higher risk countries by the Department of Homeland Security, as well. This assessment is still in place to this day. The BTB would allow these products to move freely into the country, putting United States citizens at risk.
The risk to the farmer is that BTB allows for the possibility of animal disease to be spread beyond the border. The Animal Plant Health Inspection Service is also a part of the BTB concept. A single case of Foot and Mouth Disease or some other animal disease getting into the country could spell economic disaster.
Last, but not least, this program will affect the towns and jobs that are in place along the Canada – US border. Some towns rely on the work done at these FSIS import establishments and surrounding businesses for their income. Small towns and business located in Blaine, WA., Sweetgrass, MT., Eastport, ID., Portal, ND, Caribou, ME. and Pembina, ND. will lose jobs and potentially cease to exist.
Again I cannot convey the concern I have for the United States public if the BTB is initiated. I am telling you and other members on Congress this because you have the power to look into these matters and make changes that protect our great country. I would not want to be responsible for another public health outbreak or a terrorist attack conducted through our food supply. As always stated “the United States has the safest food supply” until the BTB becomes reality.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you and the other people I have contacted regarding this matter.
Walter Piatkowski /Walter Piatkowski
United States Canadian Border Inspection Association (USCBIA)
Import Export Associates