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Thursday, May 19, 2005

The American Meat Institute (AMI) today launched www.Openbeefborders.com, a new web site that highlights the urgent need to restore full cattle and beef trade with Canada.

Two years ago, following the May 20, 2003, discovery of a case of BSE in Canada, the U.S. suspended cattle and beef trade with Canada. Imports of certain Canadian beef products were permitted beginning in August 2003, but an isolationistic group called R-CALF persuaded a U.S. District Court to block U.S. Department of Agriculture efforts to reopen the borders to Canadian cattle and remaining Canadian beef.

According to AMI, during the last decade, the U.S. and Canada have become an integrated, North American beef industry that has operated in partnership and become extremely successful in exporting beef globally and growing beef demand domestically. But the isolationists of R-CALF have seized the May 2003 Canadian BSE case as a means of maintaining a full cattle embargo and a partial embargo of Canadian beef, thereby reducing competition within the U.S. and maintaining record high cattle prices.

“Unfortunately, despite USDA efforts, despite scientific support for restoring trade, despite the fact that full restoration of trade is justified within international animal health guidelines, one group with selfish financial interests has persuaded a sympathetic judge to block the reopening of the border,” said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle. “Now, we are turning a longstanding partner – Canada – into one of our largest competitors. The longer the border remains closed, the more permanent the damage to the U.S. industry will become.”

According to Boyle, the Canadian government, frustrated by efforts to regain its U.S. beef and cattle export market, is now providing millions of dollars in aid to its own beef industry to encourage expansion. Canadian slaughter levels are projected to hit record levels by the end of 2005. “These are bricks and mortar investments that will not disappear once the border is reopened,” Boyle said. “This web site is part of our commitment to communicating the tragic and unnecessary situation that is unfolding in the U.S. beef industry.”

The web site features:
*Economic analyses of the impact of the closed border.
*Charts detailing declining employment in the U.S. beef packing industry, increasing beef prices, growing Canadian beef slaughter capacity, declining U.S. cattle herd numbers, reduced U.S. slaughter levels and reduced U.S. beef exports.
*Cartoons commissioned by AMI to emphasize the need to restore the border and to expose the profit motives of isolationists.
*A summary of legal developments related to restoration of cattle and beef trade.
*Op-eds about the issue and insightful news articles that detail the fundamental restructuring of the North American beef industry.
*A link to a grass roots center where industry members can easily write to lawmakers and the media about the need to restore full cattle and beef trade.

Boyle says he hopes the web site will be a resource for the news media, for policymakers and for the very people who advocate maintaining a closed border. He also hopes it will help make clear a fundamental fact: “R-CALF does not represent the views of the U.S. beef industry. Sadly, thanks to a sympathetic judge, we are experiencing the tyranny of a minority. AMI, mainstream cattle groups, scientists and the U.S. government itself all embrace the majority view – that U.S. and Canadian beef are safe, our herds are healthy and full trade should be restored.”

“While cattle prices may be high today to the short-term benefit of some producers, the resulting record high beef prices will erode U.S. beef consumption in the long-term. Indeed, consumers are turning to other protein sources in the face of the highest ground beef price increases since 1979,” Boyle said. “These isolationists need to look beyond today’s bank account balances and toward the future – which stands to be bleak if trade is not restored soon.”

For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs

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