Canadian cattle trade decision pending
— Ruling by permanent injunction trial date hoped for.
The issue of Canadian cattle entering the U.S. remained unresolved as of press time last Thursday, as an appellate court panel was weighing arguments on the issue. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ was called “receptive” to arguments from both sides of the ongoing battle and was noncommittal about the pending decision, according to sources in attendance at last Wednesday’s hearing in Seattle, WA.
Unlike a normal trial hearing, attorneys from both USDA and R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America fielded questions from the three judges on the bench for about 40 minutes. Hearing attendees indicated that most of the questions were originally directed at counsel representing R-CALF.
The justices were particularly interested in R-CALF’s contention that USDA was inconsistent in its use of scientific justification when finalizing its rule to allow Canadian live cattle into the U.S.
R-CALF attorney Russell Frye told the appellate court that District Court Judge Richard Cebull agreed with the allegations that USDA made its import rule on the basis of politics and then worked backward to justify the rule by incorporating science. He also said the arbitrary nature of USDA’s action was evident since the original rule allowed beef from all ages of cattle to enter the U.S. when only live cattle 30 months or younger would be allowed.
There was an indication from the appellate panel that Cebull may have ruled against USDA and its final import rule because he didn’t agree with the decision, and that he may have not shown an appropriate amount of deference to USDA.
Leaders from the Washington Cattlemen’s Association (WCA) said the panel was interested in analyzing Cebull’s decision further to see whether there was any factual basis or legal arguments that led to his granting a preliminary injunction against Canadian cattle entering the U.S.
There was no time line for an appellate court ruling known as of last Thursday. Counsel from both sides were hopeful to have a ruling on the issue by July 27, which is when Cebull is scheduled to hear testimony on a request for permanent injunction against Canadian cattle and beef entering the U.S.
Legal sources last week indicated that Cebull could issue a continuance in the permanent injunction suit if the appellate court hasn’t ruled on his preliminary injunction decision by that time. A continuance would delay the permanent injunction hearing until after the appellate court’s ruling is made.
Cebull ruled in favor of R-CALF’s preliminary injunction request May 2, five days before USDA was scheduled to reopen the border to Canadian cattle 30 months or younger. The border was originally closed to Canadian cattle and beef in May 2003, after the country reported its first confirmed case of BSE. Beef from animals under 30 months of age with specified risk materials (SRMs) removed was allowed back into the U.S. several months later. However, cattle and beef without age restrictions and SRMs removed have not been granted access. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor
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