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Border Closed to Canadian Cattle, Beef 600 Days Too Long, AMI Says

Friday, May 20, 2005

"Today is the two year anniversary of Canada’s first case of BSE, detected May 20, 2003. In response, USDA immediately closed the border to Canadian beef and cattle as an investigation was launched. This action was prudent at the time because this was the first case of BSE detected in North America. But today, that border reopening is more than 600 days overdue. Full trade should have been restored in August 2003, when some beef products from Canada were permitted to be imported.

For 712 days, we’ve been unable to import even a single head of the Canadian cattle that our packing plants – especially those in the Northern Tier states – had come to reply upon in order to operate at full capacity. Before the border closed, we imported, on average, one million head of Canadian cattle. Today, we import none.

The location of our Northern tier plants is no coincidence. They were built there because we had developed an integrated North American beef supply and Canadian cattle had flowed freely to those plants. Today, they operate at reduced capacity. Some closed temporarily; others closed permanently.

Scarcely could I have imagined on May 20, 2003, that in May 2005, we’d still be fighting to restore trade. Scarcely could I have imagined that a group created a decade ago with the primary mission of advancing isolationism and halting trade with Canada would find a sympathetic Judge who would agree to reverse the 15 months of rulemaking by a federal agency – rulemaking that was based upon 3,000 comments and two risk assessments by leading universities.

While we argue among ourselves in the United States, Canada’s government has lost its patience and is providing millions of dollars in aid to its beef packing industry to encourage expansion and facilitate the processing of Canada’s expanding herd. Meanwhile, our herd shrinks, our packing plants close or operate at reduced capacity and consumers pay the highest price for ground beef since 1979. And the isolationists laugh all the way to the bank.

Today is a sad day for the U.S. beef industry. It’s also a sad day for American public policy when a group that disregards the science and sets out to alarm the American public about Canadian beef safety – and by association and similarity American beef safety -- can undo good science. R-CALF does not represent the views of the American beef industry – we do. That view is shared by farmers, mainstream cattle groups, the union representing meat industry workers, scientists and the federal government. It’s time the courts listen.

For more information, I urge people to visit openbeefborders.com."

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

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