U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull granted a temporary court order preventing USDA's rule to categorize Canada as a minimal risk region from going into effect.
In a hearing for the case brought by R-CALF against USDA, the judge ordered attorneys for both sides to prepare for a trial in the case seeking to block Canadian cattle and beef imports from being resumed.
According to an article in the Billings Gazette, the judge ordered the attorneys to "agree within 10 days to a proposed schedule for holding a full trial with testimony from experts and cross-examination on the cattlemen's request for a permanent injunction against USDA's planned resumption of live cattle trade with Canada."
With the court injunction, USDA is not allowed to begin trade on March 7, 2005, as the rule states. It is unknown at this time whether UDSA will appeal the injunction to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. R-CALF spokesman Shae Dodson says if USDA does not appeal the ruling, a trial would likely take place between mid-summer and early autumn of this year.
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns voiced disappointment in the judge's decision in a statement Wednesday afternoon. He says USDA remains confident in the safety of the rule and protection measures put in place in Canada and the United States to protect U.S. consumers and livestock.
Johanns statement says the ruling "is not a reflection on the substance of the minimal-risk rule, but rather a procedural delay while the judge considers the merits of the case. We continue to believe that international trade in beef, founded on science-based regulations, should be re-established in an expeditious manner."
A statement from R-CALF President Leo McDonnell explains that the organization did not want to turn to the courts to make this decision, but were left with no other alternatives. Here are the reasons he says the organization has decided to take legal action:
- American consumers are entitled to the safest food products possible.
- The U.S. cattle industry provides the safest and most wholesome beef in the world.
- Canada now has a BSE problem, documented by four confirmed cases of BSE in its native cattle herd.
- USDA now has a responsibility to protect the U.S. food supply and the U.S. cattle industry from the BSE risk presented by Canada.
- USDA is not fulfilling this responsibility. The agency is not following the more stringent safeguards recommended by international science, nor is USDA following the more stringent safeguards practiced by every other country in the world affected by BSE.
- USDAâ€™s actions are placing the U.S. cattle industry at risk from a loss of consumer confidence in the U.S. beef supply.
"We have called on USDA to meet with us to find solutions to the BSE problem in Canada. We have called for a solution that ensures the U.S. does not adopt BSE standards lower than international standards and lower than the rest of the world, as this would make the U.S. a dumping ground for products other countries wonâ€™t accept," McDonnell says.