Cattle, Citizen Groups File Amicus Brief

NCBA calls the partnership a "sad day" for U.S. beef producers. Compiled by staff

Published on: Jun 3, 2005

Cattle producer, consumer and public interest groups representing one-sixth of the U.S. population announced Thursday the joint filing of an Amicus (friend of the court) Brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking to have the USDA's Administrative Rule to reopen U.S. borders to Canadian live cattle and expanded beef products declared void.

The amicus brief was initiated by stakeholder groups in the Cattlemen’s Competitive Market Project (CCMP) including South Dakota Stockgrowers Assoc., Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Montana Cattlemen’s Association; Oregon Livestock Producers; and Cattle Producers of Washington. Sixty-seven entities with national, state or local constituencies or private interests joined the brief.

Co-signers to the amicus brief include consumer activist groups Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Public Citizen, who, during the group’s telephone media conference, repeatedly discredited the U.S. systems that protect the U.S. beef supply and public health.

Ken Knuppe, spokesman for CCMP stakeholders says the partnership with the consumer groups is a "historic day as U.S. cattle producers are standing shoulder to shoulder with American consumers to protect the safety of our food chain and the health of the domestic cattle herd."

Consumer groups point blame at U.S. measures

National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Jim McAdams also called the day historic, but also a "sad day when cattle producers provide an open mic to activist groups who have worked 20 years to take beef off Americans' plates." During the call, comments by the CFA and Public Citizen focused on failings in the United States beef production system instead of the Canadian food safety system or mitigation measures taken by Canada.

CFA spokesperson Chris Waldrop says that since the first cow was found in Washington state, USDA has failed to protect U.S. consumers from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Waldrop called the USDA regulations and enforcement "little more than promise and paper checks" to keep the beef supply safe. He says the USDA rule on specified risk material (SRM) removal is inadequate, and the FDA feed ban still allows "infectious materials" to be fed to cattle. Waldrop concluded this "does not inspire confidence that our government is protecting public health."

CCMP spokesman Knuppe agrees with the activist groups in saying, "USDA’s rule is a bad rule that subjects consumers to a health risk that is invariably fatal. No one survives vCJD. We hope that the court upholds the preliminary injunction issued by the Montana Court and that subsequently, USDA’s rule is stricken permanently."

Main points outlined in the brief on behalf of CCMP include the following:

  • The Rule is at odds with other federal agency public health and safety decisional methods.
  • It favors foreign over domestic interests.
  • It subjects American cattlemen and consumers to risks with no reward.
  • The Rule is unprecedented in creating a ‘minimal-risk region’ covering Canada. The ‘minimal-risk region’ designation allows cattle imports from a known BSE region that ‘took additional mitigation measures (not defined by USDA), as necessary (not defined), following a BSE outbreak based on risk analysis (no method is described by USDA) of the outbreak’."
  • The Rule lacks precision, methodology, objectivity and science.

To view the brief may be viewed in its entirety click HERE.

R-CALF embraces consumer groups

"The comments of these activist groups prove they are anti-beef and anti-cattle. I can’t understand why anyone would embrace the clearly inaccurate and destructive statements of these two groups," concludes McAdams.

The statements made by CFA and Public Citizen come as no surprise, a statement from NCBA says. In January, 2004, CFA criticized the new USDA BSE regulations that further protect U.S. consumers by removing SRMs and preventing downed animals from entering the food supply: "I think that the new regulations have more holes in them than a mad cow’s brain…. I can’t help the paranoia of American cattlemen. They would like to not have the government in their lives at all."

R-CALF attorney David Domina says that if live cattle trade with Canada is resumed, "there is a near-statistical certainty that BSE will reach the United States in one year." A statement from NCBA explains that this is completely inaccurate, because the rule allows only cattle younger than 30 months of age to be imported. Cattle under 30 months of age are not a risk given the preventative measures that are in place in Canada and the United States. No animals under this age category, or even close to this age, have been diagnosed with BSE in Canada or the United States.

Border hearing date set for July 13

The hearing date for both the USDA appeal and the National Meat Association appeal of the preliminary injunction keeping the U.S. border closed to live Canadian cattle has been set.

The cases will be heard in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal on July 13 in Seattle, Washington. It’s expected that both appeals will be considered together. The 9th Circuit Court is based in San Francisco but hearings may be held in any one of a number of cities within its jurisdiction.

While the hearing is scheduled for July 13, it can take some time for the Appeal Court to render its decision.