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Is R-Calf getting nervous?

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Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
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U.S. ranchers seek early judgment in mad cow case
Canadian Press

WASHINGTON — A U.S. ranchers' group blocking the border to Canadian cattle is asking for an early judgment in the mad cow case, even before a court hearing scheduled for July in Montana.

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America submitted the request this week to the U.S. District Court judge that sided with the group in March and slapped a temporary ban on the cattle trade just days before it was supposed to resume March 7.

U.S. observers were unsure of the likelihood that Judge Richard Cebull would make a move to decide the long-term fate of the border before the full hearing scheduled for July 27 in Billings, Mont.

"Very rarely does that happen," said a government spokesman who didn't want to be named.

But some experts said there's a chance of an early ruling in the case, which has devastated the Canadian industry and U.S. meat packers who said they're losing an estimated $38 million US a week without enough cows to process.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has until June 8 to respond to the latest legal salvo from R-CALF, which also wants an end to trade in processed-beef products.

"We'll lay out why the court should not move quickly," said U.S. Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller.

"The court will wait for us to file our response."

Dozens of U.S. cattle and farm groups representing the majority of ranchers are supporting Canada in the legal battle.

But R-CALF has long argued Canadian beef and cattle pose safety risks because there have been three mad cow cases north of the border.

It argues officials failed to properly assess the risk of Canadian imports to U.S. herds and humans and acted too quickly to reopen the border.

The group also criticizes testing levels for mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, on both sides of the border, saying they're too low.

The Agribusiness Freedom Foundation released a rebuttal this week of R-CALF's claims Canada doesn't test enough cattle, saying tests each month of 2004 and 2005 have exceeded what the World Organization for Animal Health recommends for an entire year.

Canada has about seven million cattle over the age of 30 months, thought to be at higher risk than younger cows for contracting BSE.

It completed 23,550 tests in 2004 and have already tested 22,883 so far this year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said.

"R-CALF has grossly misrepresented the situation to the public and in court," said Steve Dittmer, the U.S. foundation's executive vice-president.

"How R-CALF reaches it conclusions and justifies its allegations somehow seems to have nothing to do with the real numbers."

The U.S. beef ban began in May 2003 after Canada's first mad cow case, costing the industry some $7 billion Cdn.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture estimates the U.S. beef industry, hit by its own mad cow case 18 months ago and struggling without Canadian imports, lost up to $4.7 billion US last year.

U.S. officials launched an appeal of the March ruling in Montana granting a temporary extension of the cattle ban. But no date has yet been set in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

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