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April 22, 2005

USA: Tyson files court paper opposing delay to imports of Canadian cattle

US meat company has filed a brief supporting the US Department of Agriculture’s appeal against a recent court decision that has delayed the reopening of the US border to Canadian cattle imports.

US meat company has filed a brief supporting the US Department of Agriculture’s appeal against a recent court decision that has delayed the reopening of the US border to Canadian cattle imports.

The company brief calls the court decision “bad” law and “bad” for consumers and notes there is no scientific basis for keeping the border closed, Tyson said.

A preliminary injunction was granted in early March by a federal judge in Montana at the request of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund. The injunction has prevented implementation of USDA’s minimal-risk rule, which would re-establish US trade with Canada for live cattle less than 30 months of age.

According to the brief Tyson filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the injunction should be lifted and the final rule should be permitted to take effect.

The company said that the USDA rule is supported by an “impressive scientific record” and is designed to help protect the consumer and the U.S. beef industry from the threat of BSE. “The district court simply failed to engage the administrative record in this case.” The result is an opinion riddled with “a number of errors.”

Tyson said, “…the court barely acknowledges that R-CALF is seeking to halt the implementation of a final rule adopted in 2005 after years of careful study and analysis by an agency (USDA) acting within its area of expertise.”

The factual record compiled by the agency demonstrates that “given the risk management system in place between Canada and the United States, there is no basis for barring the importation of cattle less than 30 months of age for slaughter.”

“The overall result of the district court’s approach is higher domestic beef prices for consumers and greater friction with our trading partners, all with no corresponding public health benefits,” Tyson said. “In short, the district court’s approach is bad food safety policy, bad administrative law and bad for consumers.”

Tyson said the district court’s decision “undermines the public interest by ignoring a particularly detailed and well reasoned regulatory analysis in favour of the views of a small group of self-interested cattlemen who are concerned only with prohibiting the import of cattle with which they would otherwise have to compete.”

Like most meatpackers, Tyson has been running its US beef plants at reduced levels of production due, in part, to the continued US ban on Canadian cattle. About 3% to 5% of the cattle purchased for the company’s domestic plants have historically come from Canada. Earlier this year the company temporarily suspended operations for more than month at four plants as well as second shift processing at another facility.

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