Mon Jan 30, 6:24 PM ET
A U.S. meat industry group said on Monday it had filed court papers backing the U.S. Agriculture Department’s decision to allow cattle and beef imports from Canada, despite attempts by ranchers group R-CALF USA to reclose the border.
The American Meat Institute submitted a brief in a Montana district court urging the continuation of cattle and beef trade with Canada. The friend-of-the-court brief said “none of R-CALF’s dire predictions about reopening the border have come true.”
R-CALF argues that live Canadian cattle pose a risk of mad cow disease to the U.S. cattle herd and should be banned. The U.S. Agriculture Department maintains that Canada has safeguards in place to prevent the spread of the deadly disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
The U.S. government imposed a ban on cattle shipments after Canada found its first domestic case of mad cow disease in May 2003. It planned to reopen the border in March 2005 to imports of Canadian cattle under 30 months of age, but ranchers group R-CALF obtained a temporary injunction from a court in Montana.
The U.S. Agriculture Department appealed to the federal appeals court in San Francisco, which rejected R-CALF’s arguments in July and reopened the U.S. border to shipments of young Canadian cattle.
The same appeals court has refused to rehear the case but Montana District Judge Richard Cebull, who issued the preliminary injunction keeping the border closed, has yet to decide whether to hold additional hearings.
R-CALF submitted a motion earlier in January asking for oral arguments in the case to be heard.
AMI was joined in its filing by the National Meat Association, North American Meat Processors, Southwest Meat Association and the Eastern Meat Packers Association.
AMI said its brief argued that the rule opening the Canadian border was working well, and that the arguments that restoration of beef trade with Canada would “undercut consumer confidence in U.S. beef and that the influx of Canadian cattle would adversely affect domestic cattle prices are not borne out by USDA economic data.”
“A fringe group is attempting to slam shut the border with our largest trading partner by using alarmist rhetoric about food safety and consumer confidence when they know that Canadian beef is every bit as safe as the beef raised in this country,” said J. Patrick Boyle, President and CEO of the American Meat Institute.