R-CALF Sues USDA Again

Cattle group has asked the District Court to prevent implementation of the rule allowing Canadian cattle to reenter U.S. Jacqui Fatka

Published on: Jan 11, 2005

R-CALF USA filed a 36-page lawsuit against USDA in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in yet another chapter of the ongoing battle of whether to keep the border closed to Canadian beef.

In its lawsuit, R-CALF USA asked the District Court in Montana to overturn USDA’s Final Rule on relaxing current U.S. restrictions on imports of cattle and beef from countries known to be affected by BSE, and on the importation of cattle under 30 months of age from Canada, and the importation of beef products from Canada regardless of the animal’s age.

On Dec. 29, 2004, USDA announced its Final Rule on "Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy; Minimal-Risk Regions and Importation of Commodities," now under a 60-day congressional review, and scheduled to take effect March 7, 2005, if Congress takes no action to modify or reject the rule. In the next several weeks the Senate Agriculture Committee has said it will conduct a hearing to evaluate the issue.

R-CALF USA has asked the District Court "to prevent implementation of a decision that creates an unjustified and unnecessary increased risk of infection of the U.S. cattle herd with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and of importing meat contaminated with BSE into the United States."

In a statement from the group, President Leo McDonnell says by allowing Canadian muscle meat into the United States without having Japan and South Korea markets reopened. "The agency refuses to comprehend the fact that our export markets will be even further damaged once we start mingling Canadian beef with USA beef."

Canadian Cattlemen's Association Director of International Relations John Masswohl says in Canada's negotiations with Japan there's been no raised concern with the second finding of BSE in the country.

Recently the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) surprisingly came more inline with R-CALF's views than ever before when it issued a statement to its members last week stating the group would be revisiting its position on the rule. One main concern the organization points out is that Japanese and Korea markets are still closed.

Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman remains steadfast in the agency's position that the rule is based on science and should be implemented in March as scheduled. American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman warns that tying the two markets sets a dangerous precedent in our ongoing negotiations with Asian markets. Veneman adds that if the U.S. changes its stance now it'll "lose credibility."

Veneman says Japan's agriculture ministry has been "stonewalling every attempt" the U.S. has made to base things on science. Veneman adds that despite that Korea has never had a confirmed case of BSE, the country refuses to allow U.S. beef exports until Japan resumes trade. She says it is clearly a "political issue" driven by emotions rather than science and will take negotiations at the highest level to reopen the valuable markets.