Border opening nears, litigation continues

As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prepares to deem Canada a minimal-risk region and open the border March 7 to imports of Canadian live cattle less than 30 months of age, speculation, debates and litigation are engulfing the industry.

With just five days until the opening, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) will go before the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana today to seek a preliminary injunction to block the reopening of the Canadian border. The organization submitted 16 pages of written testimony yesterday, requesting an injunction in an attempt to suspend trade plans until R-CALF’s full lawsuit against the USDA can be carried out — litigation that requests the USDA’s Final Rule on Canada be overturned and Canadian imports rejected.

R-CALF representatives are disputing USDA’s stance on the safety of Canadian beef products, including the agency’s technical analyses and an assessment of the Canadian ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban released by the USDA technical team late last week.

In a USDA release, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Administrator Ron DeHaven reported that the team’s firsthand assessment of Canada’s feed ban compliance “affirms our science-based decision to begin lifting the ban on live ruminants and ruminant products from Canada that have virtually no risk to human or animal health.” DeHaven reported that the inspectors, who arrived in Canada Jan. 24, gathered all relevant information and found Canada’s inspection system to be “robust” and in overall compliance.

The high-stakes hearing, scheduled from 8 a.m. to noon today, March 2, is expected to draw much attention from cattle industries on both sides of the border.

Visit for a copy of the feed ban assessment, the final rule and other documents pertaining to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

by Crystal Albers, Angus Productions Inc. assistant editor

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