The U.S. government moved toward reopening its border to Canadian beef Wednesday.

The White House budget office said it completed its review of the Department of Agriculture's plan to relax a ban on Canadian cattle imports that has been in place since May 2003. That's when Canada announced its first domestic case of mad cow disease.

"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," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. "Our approach is consistent with guidelines established by the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, and relies on appropriate, science- based risk mitigation measures."

The government said Canada is a "minimal risk" region.

The government is expected to publish a new regulation on the matter, which will trigger a 60-day congressional review to clear the way to expand trade this spring.

In 2002, Canada exported 1.7 million head of cattle to the U.S. Canadian beef producers estimate they've lost more than $4 billion since a BSE-infected cow was found in Alberta back in May 2003.