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Canada's Ranchers Skeptical of U.S. Beef Market

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Canada's Ranchers Skeptical of U.S. Beef Market

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Canada's Ranchers Skeptical of U.S. Beef Market

Canada's Ranchers Skeptical of U.S. Beef Market

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4463437/4466227" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Rancher Cam Ostercamp says he lost $140,000 in 2003 with the ban on Canadian beef. Greg Allen, NPR hide caption

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Greg Allen, NPR

Alberta cattle, with part of the Rocky Mountain range in the distance. Greg Allen, NPR hide caption

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Greg Allen, NPR

Alberta cattle, with part of the Rocky Mountain range in the distance.

Greg Allen, NPR

While still busy, the Balog Auction in southern Alberta has seen business drop off since the U.S. ban on Canadian cattle. Greg Allen, NPR hide caption

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Greg Allen, NPR

Discovery of mad cow disease in Canada in 2003 led the United States to close the border to Canadian cattle — a move that has cost Canadian beef producers more than $5 billion.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture now says it plans to reopen the border in March. But as NPR's Greg Allen reports, in Canada's cattle country, mad cow disease has sown distrust in an industry where borders once didn't matter.

Before May of 2003, when the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in Canada, six out of every ten head of cattle produced in Canada ended up on U.S. dinner plates. But it's been more than 20 months since Canadian cattle were allowed into the United States.

That's a stark contrast to domestic farmers, who saw strong consumer demand and high beef prices combine to make 2004 one of the most profitable years ever for U.S. cattlemen.