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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Washington, D.C. – The American Meat Institute (AMI), together with six other organizations, submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) appeal of a preliminary injunction against a rule to expand trade in beef and cattle with Canada. The preliminary injunction was granted March 2nd by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull in Billings, Montana at the request of Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund (R-CALF).

“AMI has argued in and out of court that no scientific justification exists for continuing the ban on Canadian cattle and beef and that the U.S. beef industry is being harmed economically by the ban – harm that will intensify if the protracted ban remains in place,” said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle. “The U.S. District Court denied members of the meat industry to be heard. Instead, the Court accepted facts in R-CALF’s pleadings on faith, when ‘reasonable doubt’ would have been appropriate given the short-term economic benefits R-CALF’s members stand to gain from a closed border. We believe that if the U.S. Court of Appeals fully scrutinizes the facts in this case and USDA's extensive rulemaking record, it will ultimately conclude that the preliminary injunction should be overturned.”

The brief was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Joining AMI as amici are the North American Meat Processors, Southwestern Meat Association, Eastern Meat Packers Association, American Association of Meat Processors, National Restaurant Association, and United Food and Commercial Workers.

In the brief, AMI and the other “amici” argued that the District Court abused its discretion by mandating continued closure of the border to Canadian cattle and beef products. U.S. and international law require open borders unless closure is necessary to prevent introduction of a livestock disease, the brief noted, and the scientific evidence makes clear that continued closure of the border is unnecessary.

“The Government has shown that the infinitesimal incidence of BSE in North America is unsurprising because of the many overlapping risk-mitigation measures implemented in Canada and the United States,” the brief says. “It has ably catalogued the 'equivalent' measures taken by our two countries over the past two decades...As the Secretary found after exhaustive analysis, the science demonstrates that these measures will prevent the establishment or spread of BSE in Canada, just as they have and will in the United States.”

AMI and the cosigners also said that the Secretary’s determination that importing cattle and beef under thirty months argues that over thirty month cattle and beef is also safe.
In all cases, whether under thirty months or over thirty months, tissues that can pose a risk are removed at slaughter.

AMI and other amici argued that the lower court’s injunction will perpetuate very significant injury suffered by the American beef industry and by beef consumers.

“Judge Cebull issued his injunction after refusing to allow representatives of the American meat industry to be heard. Instead, he heard from the one segment of that industry with an economic interest in keeping the borders closed to Canadian cattle – producers of cattle here in the United States. As a result, the balancing of hardships required by this Circuit could not be and was not done. Instead, the District Court simply assumed that delaying implementation of the rule would be ‘largely harmless.’ Nothing could be further from the truth,” the brief said. American meat packers have seen their business drop off and have laid off workers as American consumers and restaurants pay record high beef prices as a result of the market distortion the closed border has caused.

“While these effects will not be eliminated until the border is reopened to all Canadian imports, the final rule would have gone some distance toward ameliorating the adverse impacts of the original closure. And as USDA found, it would do so with no significant risk of BSE, either to the American herd or to the American consumer. Instead, having heard from R-CALF and believing that continuing the ban would be 'largely harmless,' the district court has perpetuated losses and adverse business impacts that have already gone on far too long,” the brief concluded.


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

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