R-CALF limits beef imports

SALEM, Ohio – A federal judge agreed last week to stop shipments of ground beef and bone-in cuts from Canada to the United States.

The decision came after Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) sued USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for relaxing restrictions on Canadian imports, saying it would hurt the cattle industry and put human health at risk.

On May 5, the USDA agreed to extend U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull’s temporary restraining order.

APHIS will now focus on establishing a rule to allow Canadian beef products and cattle in the United States, according to a USDA press release.

Victorious. R-CALF said this is a “huge victory” for U.S. consumers.

“USDA was playing fast and loose with the safety and health of U.S. consumers, and the judge put a stop to it,” Chief Executive Officer Bill Bullard said in a May 5 release.

“We think the government’s decision not to fight an extension of the judge’s order shows that USDA recognized it would have been hard to defend its position in court.”

Restrictions. After a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was found in Canada last May, the USDA restricted Canadian imports to low-risk beef products.

This restriction, which was made in August, included boneless beef only from cattle under 30 months.

In April, however, the USDA agreed to allow imports of ground beef, bone-in cuts and organs with no restriction on the animal’s age, according to court documents.

These products have a higher risk of carrying mad cow disease than boneless cuts of beef, R-CALF said.

All eyes. R-CALF’s litigation ignores the research, said Ohio Cattlemen’s Association Executive Director Elizabeth Harsh.

After looking at BSE reviews, Harsh said allowing bone-in and ground beef imports isn’t a problem.

If done properly, the Canadian border can be reopened safely to U.S. beef consumers, she said.

All eyes are on the United States because other countries want to see how it treats Canada, Harsh said. This may influence how and when these countries open their borders to the United States, she said.


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