AMI seeks injunction ending Canada beef ban

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 7, 2005
by WLJ
Saying its members have endured significant and prolonged financial damages because of the ongoing ban on Canadian cattle, the American Meat Institute on Jan. 27 filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against USDA in an attempt to end the remaining portions of the 18- month ban on Canadian cattle.
The ban on cattle 30 months of age and older has been in place since May 2003 when Canada diagnosed its first domestic case of BSE.
"There is no scientific, legal, or logical reason to continue the ban on Canadian cattle," said Mark Dopp, AMI's senior vice president for regulatory affairs and general counsel, in the association's announcement of the lawsuit. "This ban is causing drastic and permanent economic consequences on both sides of the border, hurting hardworking Americans and Canadians while serving no valid purpose."
The motion seeks to enjoin the continued enforcement of part of an interim rule promulgated by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in May 2003. When originally issued, the interim rule closed the border between Canada and the U.S. to importation of cattle and beef products from Canada into the U.S.
Upon filing its initial lawsuit on Dec. 30, 2004, AMI pointed out that the international trade guidelines established by the World Animal Health Organization, known by its French acronym, OIE, Canada's response to its cases of BSE and the system set in place prior to Canada finding its first case of BSE are more than adequate to justify full trade in cattle and beef products with Canada, regardless of an animal's age.
AMI has argued that since the May 2003 border closing, many U.S. meatpackers have endured huge economic losses because of the short supply of cattle, while Canada has taken steps to expand its domestic slaughtering capacity.
“The economic damage being done to U.S. meatpackers and their employees has been severe, prolonged, and in some cases, permanent," said Dopp in the announcement. "Every day this ban drags on, yet another U.S. plant draws closer to closing its doors. Unless USDA's new rule is modified, it will result in the movement of thousands of meat processing jobs out of the U.S. This will happen primarily because the ban will prohibit the importation of older Canadian cattle for processing in U.S. plants, while allowing importation of meat from those same cattle processed in Canadian plants," he said.
There have been calls from some groups to block the planned reopening of the border on March 7 since two recent cases of BSE were diagnosed in Canada. AMI has contended that Canadian beef is as safe as U.S. beef, since both nations have nearly identical systems in place to combat BSE.
As such, calling the safety of Canadian beef and cattle into question as a means for denying the reopening of the border would make the U.S. look like it doesn't believe its own rhetoric, the AMI said.
"Trade is not a one way street, and we have to open our border to have borders opened to us," said Dopp. "And Canada is the first rung on the ladder in our quest to regain lost export markets worldwide."