Definitive rule needed
BSE (from page 1)
“This rule has been a long time coming, and we stand ready to work with members of Congress and the administration to finalize this rule because it will give trade negotiators from the United States a stronger position to press other nations to follow OIE standards.”
The rule would comply with guidelines established by the International Organization for Animal Health and open markets abroad for U.S. beef.
In May 2003, BSE was confirmed in a cow in Alberta, Canada—the first known native North American case. In December 2003, BSE was confirmed in a Canadianborn cow in Washington state—the first known U.S. occurrence. On Jan. 2 and 11, 2005, Canada announced two more cases of BSE, also in Alberta cows.
As the cases emerged, a number of steps were taken by the U.S. to safeguard the industry. Specifically, shortly after the May 2003 Canadian BSE discovery, USDA published an interim final rule in the Federal Register prohibiting the importation of cattle and other ruminants and ruminant products from Canada. This rule has, over time, been lifted.
According to a USDA report, after the administration acted on several subse quent occasions to expand the types of permitted products the ban prohibited, beyond those announced in August 2003, and to ease the conditions for their entry into the U.S., a federal judge in April 2004 halted the expansion.
The judge concluded that USDA had not followed rulemaking procedures as spelled out in the Administrative Procedure Act. The judge noted, among other things, that import restrictions were being relaxed “at the very same time when USDA is in the middle of a rulemaking to determine whether to take such a step.”
According to the USDA report, the judge was referring to a Nov. 4, 2003, proposed rule that would allow entry of additional types of Canadian beef, other ruminant products, including younger cattle. After the court’s ruling, USDA officials agreed to limit bovine imports only to those they had approved for entry in August 2003 until after a final rule could be published.
USDA published this rule in final form on Jan. 4, 2005, which was to take effect March 7, 2005. However, the same federal judge, responding to another lawsuit, granted a temporary injunction that blocked implementation of the rule. To date, the BSE rule has yet to be finalized. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor