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US judge rules against Canadian OTM cattle

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Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
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U.S. judge rules against letting in Canadian cows
CTV.ca News Staff

A U.S. federal judge struck another blow to Canada's cattle industry Monday -- the day the American border was supposed to re-open to imports of live Canadian cattle under 30 months of age.

The American Meat Institute (AMI) had asked for a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Agriculture's original ban on the imports of Canadian beef or cattle, in place since May, 2003. That's when Canada discovered its first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

But the U.S. meat industry group's request was denied, announced the clerk's office at the U.S. District Court in Washington on Monday.

Some U.S. meatpacking plants, facing an uncertain future without enough beef to process, rely on Canadian cattle for their supply. And the AMI was pushing to get the border opened up to live Canadian cattle imports over 30 months of age.

In a separate lawsuit last week, a federal judge in Montana kept the border closed by temporarily blocking a USDA rule easing the ban on Canadian cattle under 30-months-old -- dashing any hopes of a recovery for cattle farmers.

With the two recent U.S. rulings, the Canadian beef industry is coming to grips with the fact that they'll remain shut out of the American market, at least for the near future.

In Ottawa, the Liberals faced criticism by the opposition over the sealed border and the lack of compensation provided by the government to cattle farmers.

"The prime minister had promised Canadian producers that the American border would be open today," said Opposition Leader Stephen Harper during Parliament's question period. "Well promise made, promise broken."

The Conservatives are calling for a whole new compensation package for farmers, demanding the Liberals use the federal budget's contingency fund to help the farmers.

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale hinted that the $3 billion fund, reserved for "genuine emergencies," might be used to help farmers, but offered nothing concrete.

Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell said despite the two U.S. court rulings, the "U.S. administration stands firmly behind Canada's position and is working with Canada."

He said a strategy to make the industry profitable, regardless of an open or closed border, was put forward in September.

"There's been $1.9 billion invested in the cattle and beef industry in this country, and . . . we stand by our industry and stand to make new investments as necessary," said Mitchell.

The statement did little to ease the concerns of Alberta feedlot operator Jack Deboer, who thought he would be busy shipping cattle south of the border by now.

"It's hard to believe that one person can overrule a U.S. government decision," he told CTV's Alberta affiliate, CFCN.

Deboer and a group of fellow feedlot operators (Farmers For Action) are trying to push the development of a made-in-Canada solution -- calling for all levels of government to fund and create world class meat-packing facilities in Canada to make the industry less reliant on the U.S.

Group spokesman Rick Paskal points out, however, that such a project would take years to complete, and insists more immediate measures need to be taken to help farmers.

Even though science shows Canadian beef is safe to consume, countries like Japan are insisting the testing of every animal. And Paskal believes if that's what it takes to get our beef back into a market like Japan's, then Canada should start testing each animal.

"We still need somewhere to go with this beef. We're very dependent on the American marketplace here," he told CFCN.

Meanwhile, Alberta announced $37 million to help develop new export markets and other initiatives for the cattle industry.

Manitoba said it will put $3 million into expanding slaughter capacity.

Manitoba Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk said her government has been approached about funding other potential projects to expand slaughter capacity.

"There have been many people who have come forward with ideas on how they might increase slaughter capacity," Wowchuk told the Canadian Press, although she would not provide details.

In order to encourage investment in processing facilities, Alberta Agriculture Minister Doug Horner called on Ottawa to develop a tax benefit program.

There are worries that cattle producers, who've been pushed to the brink since mad cow was discovered in Canada, may decide to throw in the towel and cause a collapse in cattle prices.

"We asked that the contingency plans be strengthened and continue," Darcy Davis, chairman of the Alberta Beef Producers, told the Canadian Press.

USDA officials have until April 1 to decide if the government will appeal the Montana judge's injunction blocking young cattle from entering the U.S.

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