More than 19 months after a mad-cow scare closed U.S. borders to Canadian cattle, the United States said yesterday it will allow limited imports beginning in March. The new policy will...

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WASHINGTON — More than 19 months after a mad-cow scare closed U.S. borders to Canadian cattle, the United States said yesterday it will allow limited imports beginning in March.

The new policy will permit imports of cattle younger than 30 months and certain other animals and products from Canada, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture said has effective measures to prevent and detect bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease.

Live cattle shipments from Canada were banned in May 2003 after a case of mad-cow disease was discovered in Alberta. A second case was discovered a year ago in a Canadian-born dairy cow in Yakima County.

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The USDA said yesterday’s decision, which will take effect March 7, came after determining Canada is a “minimal-risk region,” the first country recognized as such.

“After conducting an extensive review, we are confident that imports of certain commodities from regions of minimal risk can occur with virtually no risk to human or animal health,” Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said in a statement.

The cattle imports will be subject to certain restrictions, including ensuring that they are slaughtered by the age of 30 months, which scientists say is too young to contract mad-cow disease. The cattle also will be required to be transported in sealed containers to a feedlot or slaughter, and they will not be allowed to move to more than one U.S. feedlot.

Among other Canadian imports to be allowed in limited measures are sheep and goats, as well as meat and other products from those animals.

Canadian beef farmers and agriculture officials reacted positively to the new ruling.

“Certainly we’re very pleased,” said Elizabeth Whiting, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Agriculture Ministry. “It’s something that farmers have been waiting for a long time in Canada.”

Before the trade ban, the United States bought about 70 percent of Canada’s live cattle exports.