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appeals court overturns ban on imports of Canadian cattle

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Feb 15, 2005
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world news
Thursday, Jul 14, 2005

U.S. federal appeals court overturns ban on imports of Canadian cattle

WASHINGTON (CP) - In a victory for Canadian producers, a federal appeals court Thursday overturned the ban on cattle, throwing out a lower court's ruling that imports could spread mad cow disease in the United States.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling by a Montana judge who blocked U.S. officials from reopening the border in March.

Neither U.S. Department of Agriculture nor Canadian federal officials were immediately available for comment on when cattle would be allowed back into the United States.

Canadian Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell was en route back to Canada from China, an aide said.

But Mark Wartman, Saskatchewan's agriculture minister, said he expects "cattle should be moving quickly."

"That said, we have no official comment from the USDA at this point in terms of whether our interpretation of that is correct."

The court issued its ruling from San Franscisco late Thursday after a one-day hearing in Seatlle where R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America said dropping a ban on cattle that began in May 2003 "would subject the entire U.S. beef industry to potentially catastrophic damages."

The protectionist group also argued that Canadian imports present a "genuine risk of death for U.S. consumers."

But the justices didn't agree. They said they would issue another ruling soon explaining their rationale.

The import battle still faces one more legal hurdle, a hearing July 27 before Disrict Court Judge Richard Cebull, who originally sided with R-CALF.

But analysts have said a positive result from the appeals court would put pressure on Cebull to change his view.

At Wednesdy's hearing, U.S. government lawyer Mark Stern slammed R-CALF for using questionable scientific reasoning to justify a continued ban on Canadian cattle imports.

"Their risk assessment assumes everything goes wrong," said Stern.

The cattle trade, blocked in May 2003 since Canada's first mad cow case, was supposed to resume in March but Cebull's ruling blocked that.

Canadian ranchers estimate they've lost $7 billion Cdn in the trade tangle, while U.S. meatpackers are going out of business without a steady supply of cows.

© The Canadian Press, 2005