US and Canadian politicians have expressed disappointment at a court ruling which delays a move to re-establish US imports of cattle and beef.

US agriculture secretary Mike Johanns said he was “very disappointed,” at the temporary injunction issued by the US District Court for the District of Montana to delay the implementation of the US Department of Agriculture’s minimal-risk rule, which would make it possible for live cattle under 30 months of age to be exported from Canada to the US.

“USDA remains confident that the requirements of the minimal-risk rule, in combination with the animal and public health measures already in place in the United States and Canada, provide the utmost protection to both U.S. consumers and livestock,” he said. “We also remain fully confident in the underlying risk assessment….which determined Canada to be a minimal risk region.”

He pointed out that the ruling was a procedural delay, while the judge considers the merits of the case. “We continue to believe that international trade in beef, founded on science-based regulations, should be re-established in an expeditious manner,” he said.

Canada’s minister of agriculture and agri-food, Andy Mitchell, said he shared the disappointment of the Canadian livestock industry. The US rule would have allowed a resumption of US imports of live cattle, other ruminants and a wider range of products derived from them. “It has taken a lot of work and collaboration on both sides of the border at all levels of both industry and government to reach this point,” he said

“Canada and the United States have the same BSE risk status, and have similar safeguards in place to protect human health, food safety and animal health,” he said. “The interests of consumers and producers on both sides of the border would be served by reintegrating our ruminant and meat markets to the fullest extent possible based on science. The science indicates that the border should be reopened.”

We appreciate assurances from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that they will continue to work to ensure that science-based decision-making prevails and that international trade needs to be re-established in an expeditious manner,” he said. He noted that the decision did not reflect the views of the USDA.

The US halted imports of Canadian beef and cattle in May, 2003, after a case of BSE was found in an Alberta cow.