Judge permits arguments for older Canadian cattle

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 28, 2005
by WLJ
A U.S. District Court judge denied last Wednesday the U.S. government's request to strike two arguments made by the American Meat Institute in an effort to force the U.S. to lift its ban on Canadian cattle of all ages.
The American Meat Institute, which represents U.S. beef processors, told Judge John Garrett Penn that USDA isn't justified in using a 30-month age threshold to distinguish cattle as less or more safe.
AMI also asked Penn to impose a 120-day deadline on USDA to make a decision on older cattle in the event the judge doesn't grant a preliminary injunction that would allow in Canadian cattle of all ages.
Penn denied USDA's arguments to strike those two requests by AMI, but gave USDA until March 1 to file a response to the judge's denial.
USDA General Counsel Nancy Bryson said last Wednesday that the judge's denial of the motion wasn't significant in the overall question of whether the preliminary injunction would be granted. Bryson said it was strictly a "procedural" issue.
USDA officials have said it can't lift the ban on Canadian cattle 30 months or older because no risk assessment has been performed.
Penn asked USDA twice about when the agency could reach a decision on the older Canadian cattle. Tamara Ulrich, a lawyer representing USDA, twice said she had no answer, but stressed it was a "priority" for the department.
Jonathan Abram, an attorney representing AMI, said the only reason USDA officials haven't performed a risk analysis on older Canadian cattle is because "they haven't gotten around to it."
Penn didn't say when he would decide on AMI's request for a preliminary injunction to lift the ban on Canadian cattle of all ages.
The USDA banned all Canadian cattle and beef in May 2003 after Canada reported a case of BSE. A few months later, in August, the USDA lifted the ban only on Canadian beef, so long as it was boneless and from cattle 30 months old or younger.
In December 2004, USDA unveiled its plan to further open up trade with Canada by lifting its ban on live cattle younger than 30 months and beef from older animals by March 7. However, on Feb. 9, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns decided to postpone letting in beef from animals older than 30 months. Johanns has indicated it may take six month to a year for the U.S. to reopen its border to Canadian cattle that are 30 months of age or older and beef from those animals. — WLJ