Meat associations, processors praise the reversal of the Canadian import ban.
Four days after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a preliminary injunction blocking imports of Canadian cattle, the first shipment of Canadian cattle crossed from Ontario into New York en route to a processing plant in Pennsylvania.
“This is great news for the future of the U.S. beef industry,” said USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, “specifically the many ranchers, feeders, and processing plants that have been struggling to make ends meet due to the closed border.”
Montana Judge Richard Cebull issued the preliminary injunction on April 26, 2004, blocking the USDA from reopening the border after a Canadian case of BSE led to the closing. The appeals court judges reversed the injunction on July 14, ruling that “the Secretary had a firm basis for determining that the resumption of ruminant imports from Canada would not significantly increase the risk of BSE to the American population.”
The Ninth Court noted that numerous amici curiae or “friend of the court” briefs were filed by organizations representing large sectors of the American meat industry, all of whom sought a reversal of the injunction.
One such brief was submitted by seven industry associations, including the American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) and the American Meat Institute (AMI). “Judge Cebull issued his injunction after refusing to allow representatives of the American meat industry to be heard,” the brief noted. “Instead, he heard from one segment of that industry with an economic interest in keeping the borders closed to Canadian cattle — processors of cattle here in the United States.”
The National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) also submitted a brief, asking for science to have its day in court. “The science that says beef is safe from BSE was not represented in the decision issues by the district court in Montana,” wrote Jim McAdams, president of the NCBA. “The judge’s conclusion that this rule ‘presents a genuine risk of death for U.S. consumers’ is simply not based on science.”
Since the appeals court ruling was announced, numerous companies and associations have spoken out in favor of the decision. Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale, AR, relayed that it looked forward to the resumption of Canadian cattle trade. “As we said in our brief in support of the USDA’s appeal, because of the science-based safeguards implemented by the U.S. and Canada to protect the consumer, there is no basis for keeping the border closed.”
Jim Herlihy, vice president, communications, for the Greeley, CO-based Swift & Co., called the decision long overdue. “The U.S. has been importing boxed beef from the same cattle for roughly two years now, and science has told us that if the beef is safe, the animals are safe.”
Patrick Boyle, president of the AMI, said, “The painstaking detail included in the opinion should forever lay to rest questions about the risk posed by the importation of cattle and beef from minimal risk countries — whether Canada or any other nation.”
Leo McDonnell, president and co-founder of R-CALF USA, which filed the complaint against the USDA that led to the preliminary injunction, said in part, “The Ninth Circuit’s opinion clearly documents the great divide between the government and certain segments of the industry.” NP