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R-CALF goes one last round against Canadian cattle

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Sep 3, 2005
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R-CALF goes one last round against Canadian cattle 02.22.2006
By Ron Friesen — A U.S. ranchers’ group has gone back to court in a final attempt to reclose the border to Canadian cattle because of a possible BSE risk.
R-CALF last week filed a motion in Montana District Court asking Judge Richard Cebull for a hearing into the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s minimal risk rule for importing cattle from countries with BSE.
Cebull is the same judge who last March issued a temporary injunction against the USDA rule. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the injunction in July, allowing the border to open.
In its motion, filed January 6, R-CALF said the Appeal Court ruling affected only the injunction, not the merits of the entire case against the USDA rule. It asked Cebull to resume consideration of the case.
Following the Appeal Court ruling, Cebull vacated a scheduled hearing into a permanent injunction, saying he would study the decision and reconvene if necessary.
R-CALF said Cebull should not feel bound by the Appeal Court’s decision because, it argued, the USDA is still not following scientific standards.
The grassroots organization has been largely silent since last summer, when Canadian cattle finally began re-entering the U.S. after a two-year ban following the discovery in May 2003 of a BSE cow in Alberta.
Now that R-CALF is trying again to have the border closed, Canadian producers are nervous.
But the chances that Cebull will issue another injunction are likely slim, suggested John Masswohl, international relations director for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
“If I were in his shoes, I would certainly go back and have another read through that Ninth Circuit decision,” Masswohl said.
“Legally, he’s not under any obligation to touch this case again.”
Masswohl said the Appeal Court’s ruling against Cebull’s injunction was so strong, the Montana judge would have a hard time sticking to his original decision the second time around.
“They really seemed to go out of their way to address each one of R-CALF’s substantive arguments and knock them all down one by one.”
Masswohl suggested R-CALF’s lack of success since then in getting the Appeal Court’s ruling reversed is significant.
R-CALF failed to get an “en banc” rehearing by all 47 judges on the Appeal Court. R-CALF did not seek to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The deadline for doing so has run out.
It’s also significant that none of the negative impacts of reopening the border which R-CALF predicted has happened, said Masswohl.
R-CALF warned that millions of Canadian cattle would flood into the U.S., market prices would tumble and American consumers would stop eating beef for fear of BSE. Not one of these things came about.
Now that R-CALF wants the case reopened, Cebull has three options: do nothing, schedule a hearing, or issue a ruling without a hearing, based on written submissions and briefs, Masswohl said.
He said it would be good if Cebull rules for the USDA this time because that would end the case once and for all.
The USDA rule in question only affects imported cattle under 30 months of age. Another USDA rule admitting cattle over 30 months could be published later this year.
R-CALF is expected to challenge that rule when it comes out, too, Masswohl said.
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EFSA Scientific Report on the Assessment of the Geographical BSE-Risk (GBR) of Canada
Last updated: 08 September 2004
Adopted July 2004 (Question N° EFSA-Q-2003-083)

Summary of the Scientific Report

The European Food Safety Authority and its Scientific Expert Working Group on the Assessment of the Geographical Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Risk (GBR) were asked to provide an up-to-date scientific report on the GBR in Canada, i.e. the likelihood of the presence of one or more cattle being infected with BSE, pre-clinically as well as clinically, in Canada. This scientific report addresses the GBR of Canada as assessed in 2004 based on data covering the period 1980-2003.

The BSE agent was probably imported into the country middle of the eighties and could have reached domestic cattle in the early nineties. These cattle imported in the mid eighties could have been rendered in the late eighties and therefore led to an internal challenge in the early 90s. It is possible that imported meat and bone meal (MBM) into Canada reached domestic cattle and led to an internal challenge in the early 90s.

A certain risk that BSE-infected cattle entered processing in Canada, and were at least partly rendered for feed, occurred in the early 1990s when cattle imported from UK in the mid 80s could have been slaughtered. This risk continued to exist, and grew significantly in the mid 90’s when domestic cattle, infected by imported MBM, reached processing. Given the low stability of the system, the risk increased over the years with continued imports of cattle and MBM from BSE risk countries.

EFSA concludes that the current GBR level of Canada is III, i.e. it is confirmed at a lower level that domestic cattle are (clinically or pre-clinically) infected with the BSE-agent. As long as the system remains unstable, it is expected that the GBR continues to grow, even if no additional external challenges occur.

Publication date: 20 August 2004





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