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Court Rules, Border to Open to Live Cattle

July 15, 2005 — The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday evening overturned an earlier ruling by a Montana district court that granted an injunction blocking Canadian live cattle imports. The decision of the three-judge panel will lift the injunction against importation of live cattle under 30 months of age, effective immediately.

In a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) release, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns applauded the decision, saying, “This is great news for the future of the U.S. beef industry, specifically the many ranchers, feeders and processing plants that have been struggling to make ends meet due to the closed border. It also bolsters our position with other international trading partners by following the very advice we have given them to base trade decisions on sound science.”

Johanns and USDA officials are now taking steps to resume plans for opening trade. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to prepare to certify cattle for shipment, he noted.

“We have been safely importing boneless boxed beef from Canada since September 2003, and now we will use the scientific approach laid out in our minimal risk rule to once again safely import live Canadian cattle for processing,” he stated.

Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) originally called for the injunction, which was granted March 2, in an attempt to suspend trade plans until the group’s full lawsuit against USDA could be carried out — litigation that disputes the safety of Canadian beef products and requests the USDA’s Final Rule on Canada be overturned and Canadian imports rejected altogether. The injunction disrupted USDA’s plans to deem Canada a minimal-risk region and open the border March 7. Now that the injunction has been lifted, meatingplace.com noted that the related trial set for July 27 in Billings, Mont., could be cancelled unless the appeals court allows it to proceed.

Bill Bullard, R-CALF chief executive officer (CEO), expressed his disappointment in the ruling in a statement released last night. He said, “R-CALF USA remains confident that USDA’s Final Rule was not justified, and that USDA did not provide significant justification for overturning a long-standing policy that protected both the U.S. cattle herd and U.S. consumers from the introduction of BSE.”

Bullard suggested R-CALF will possibly wait to take action until it can review the court’s decision. The National Meat Association (NMA) reported that the court would issue its opinion detailing the reasons for its reversal “expeditiously and in due course.”

Visit www.usda.gov for more information.

— by Crystal Albers, Angus Productions Inc., assistant editor

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