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HAY MAKER

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R-CALF USA News Release



(Billings, Mont.) – The National Meat Association (NMA) last week filed an “emergency” appeal of orders from the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, which denied NMA’s motion to intervene in the lawsuit R-CALF USA filed on Jan. 10, 2005, against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to keep the Canadian border closed to imports of live Canadian cattle and additional beef products, scheduled by USDA to occur March 7.



NMA’s supposed ‘emergency?’ NMA members had been counting on an influx of “cheap Canadian cattle” (NMA’s term) to increase the profit margins on the meat they produce. Those Canadian cattle that NMA members are desperate to process are valued much lower than U.S. cattle because no one wants beef from countries affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – especially when one considers that there have been four cases of BSE in Canadian born cattle in the past 21 months. NMA’s “emergency’ filing betrays its real interests: maximize its members’ profits, regardless of the impact on U.S. cattle producers and U.S. and foreign consumers.



On Friday, R-CALF USA filed its formal response in opposition to the ‘emergency’ request by the NMA to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (9th Circuit) in San Francisco.



At a hearing on March 2, U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull granted R-CALF USA’s request for a preliminary injunction to prevent USDA from allowing imports of live Canadian cattle and additional beef products to resume until the full merits of the case could be heard. Cebull’s decision prevented USDA’s regulations from going into effect on March 7 as planned by the agency.



Before that hearing, NMA had requested that Cebull allow it to intervene in R-CALF USA’s lawsuit against USDA. Both R-CALF USA and USDA opposed NMA’s effort to intervene. Cebull denied NMA’s request. NMA appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit, and appealed Cebull’s March 2 decision that granted R-CALF USA’s request for preliminary injunction.



“NMA has taken a confused approach with its unorthodox ‘emergency motion,’ and its requests to the court contain many inaccurate, hyperbolic and misleading statements,” said Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA CEO.



After the May 2003 discovery of a BSE-positive cow in Alberta, Canada, USDA prohibited imports of Canadian cattle and beef products into the United States. Then, in August 2003 – because of intense pressure from the Canadian government and some U.S.-based meatpackers that also operate plants in Canada – USDA decided to allow certain beef products to be imported from Canada, primarily boneless beef products from cattle under 30 months of age.



“NMA claims that a situation that’s existed since August 2003 is causing its members irreparable harm, but that ‘situation’ is the result of USDA’s actions and has nothing to do with any action taken by the U.S. District Court in Billings, Mont., on March 2, 2005,” Bullard pointed out.



“NMA is trying to say R-CALF’s preliminary injunction stopped the importation of live cattle from Canada and has created an unfair imbalance in the marketplace,” said Bullard. “If NMA would do a reality check, they’d certainly find out that USDA – not R-CALF – created the unfair imbalance in the marketplace beginning in August 2003 when it partially lifted the United States’ 15-year ban on allowing imports of beef from countries with BSE, and this is an action NMA has never challenged.



“It’s our contention that NMA’s complaint is misdirected,” Bullard continued. “If NMA has been so unhappy with USDA’s decision, why didn’t they take up the issue back then? And why, instead, did NMA submit comments as recently as January 2004 commending the USDA for taking ‘appropriate regulatory action’?



“In essence, the preliminary injunction just maintained the status quo that had governed the activities of NMA members for more than a year and a half,” said Bullard. “USDA has had a policy in place since 1989 that bans the import of cattle and beef from countries where BSE is known to exist, and the effect of the preliminary injunction was simply to prevent USDA’s Final Rule that would’ve changed that longstanding policy from going into effect. Again, NMA has never challenged USDA’s decision from August 2003.”



The 9th Circuit has decided to hear NMA’s appeal on an expedited schedule, with NMA’s brief due on March 21, and R-CALF USA’s response due on March 28.



There have been four discoveries of BSE-positive cattle originating from Alberta, Canada in just the past 21 months: May 20, 2003, Alberta; Dec. 23, 2003, imported into Washington state from Alberta; Jan. 2, 2005, Alberta; and, Jan. 11, 2005, Alberta.



Even USDA attorneys acknowledged during the March 2 court hearing that Alberta has a high-risk cattle population for BSE. (See page 57 of court transcript, posted at: www.r-calfusa.com under “BSE-Litigation.”)



NMA offers no real support for its claim that the preliminary injunction is ‘devastating’ its members’ ability to compete, and its claim that the result of the preliminary injunction will be ‘total destruction’ of the businesses of NMA members.



Also, NMA falsely claims that USDA, in its Final Rule, determined that U.S. meatpackers have suffered ‘severe hardship,’ that would be alleviated when the Final Rule was implemented.



“What the record does support – and what NMA candidly acknowledges – is that its members will benefit if they are able to buy ‘cheap Canadian cattle’ because Canada has a surplus since other countries won’t buy cattle or beef from countries with BSE,” Bullard said. “Simply put, NMA doesn’t mind whether the U.S. marketplace becomes a dumping ground for food products other countries have banned.



“It’s also important to note that the Final Rule did show that cow/calf producers – like R-CALF’s members – stand to lose $2.5 billion, if the Final Rule were to take effect, and that slaughterhouses and meat processors – like those NMA represents – would experience increased earnings as a result of the Final Rule, since those entities would be able to buy cattle at lower prices due to the increased supply from Canada,” said Bullard.



“The fact that NMA members were looking forward to a windfall from the availability of cheap Canadian cattle, had the border reopened on March 7th, does not create an emergency for NMA members,” Bullard said. “Judge Cebull concluded that the public interest is benefited by a preliminary injunction, and that no one would suffer significant harm by maintaining the status quo. R-CALF USA is confident the appellate court will uphold Judge Cebull’s well-reasoned opinions.”
 

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