News Update

April 21, 2005

NCBA Enters Legal Battle

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) announced late yesterday they will file an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief today to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of R-CALF v. USDA.

During a press conference, NCBA President-Elect Mike John stated that by filing for the legal status, the organization hopes to ensure that science is well-represented in the court.

“When U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull concluded the Final Rule called Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), Minimal Risk Regions and Importation of Commodities ‘presents a genuine risk of death for U.S. consumers,’ his opinion was a far cry from sound science,” John said, adding that, according to World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) experts, BSE is not a public or herd health risk given key firewalls.

John said that Judge Cebull’s decision March 2 to grant an injunction against U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to allow restricted beef and cattle imports from Canada was a result of one of two occurrences at the court hearing — either the plaintiff, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), provided the court with flawed information, or the defendant, the Department of Justice, inadequately defended the science.

“Either way, U.S. cattle producers will not let R-CALF or USDA be the only voices representing the science that supports beef is safe from BSE,” he said. In addition to NCBA and AFBF, 29 other state cattle organizations, 18 state farm bureaus, the National Pork Producer’s Council, and individual independent cattlemen have supported the brief.

The co-signers join a growing list of other industry organizations hoping to play a role in the pending trial, expected to begin in late July. The National Meat Association (NMA) began seeking intervenor status even before USDA appealed Cebull’s decision, and the American Meat Institute (AMI), along with the National Association of Meat Processors (NAMP), filed an amicus brief April 1 in support of the NMA appeal. All three meat organizations argue that the meat industry has interest in the case, which, they say, puts its members in economic danger due to reduced capacities at processing plants nationwide. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) also filed for intervenor status, stating that Canadian cattle producers have substantial interest in the outcome of the case.

Following NCBA’s announcement, representatives responded to questions regarding recent NCBA policy outlining 11 issues to resolve before establishing trade with Canada. While John reported that 10 of the 11 have been resolved, the United States has yet to achieve the final goal — to reestablish beef and beef byproduct trade with Japan, South Korea and Mexico.

“… While Mexico has stated they will only accept from us the same product we accept from Canada, movement in Asia has been slow despite pressure from all levels of government and industry,” John stated.

“We certainly outlined those 11 points as a guide to have completion before we did open that border. However, we view those as a work in progress, and we view those as key elements of normalizing and reestablishing normalized trade worldwide,” he said. “We still consider those a high priority. We are still working on the completion of all 11.”

Gary Weber, NCBA executive director of regulatory affairs, added, “All the scientific facts that we’re using to support reestablishing trade with Canada are the same basic fundamental scientific facts we have to have in place to reestablish trade with Japan. So they’re really a mutually inclusive activity here — building that case and documenting the scientific fact and the basis for trade.”

John promised NCBA will continue to dedicate its full resources to reopening the Asian market. “NCBA’s members continue to believe a positive future for cattlemen depends upon 1) maintaining consumer confidence in our product, and 2) increasing market opportunities for producers.

“We file this amicus brief today to ensure the first, and we continue to call for normalization of trade based on science to ensure the latter.”

compiled by Crystal Albers, Angus Productions Inc. assistant editor

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