USDA published its proposed rule last month to allow the importation of live cattle more than 30 months of age, and beef products from such animals, from countries regarded as minimal risk for BSE. Canada is the only country regarded as minimal risk by the U.S.

Published in the Jan. 9 Federal Register, the measure would allow the importation of:

  • Live cattle and other bovines for any use born on or after March 1, 1999, the date determined by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to be the date of effective enforcement of the ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban in Canada.

  • Blood and blood products derived from bovines, collected under certain conditions.

  • Casings and part of the small intestine derived from bovines.

The proposed rule is available at www.aphis.usda.gov. The public comment period ends March 12.

In a Jan. 4 press conference, APHIS Chief Veterinarian John Clifford said:

“In January 2005, USDA published a final rule that established conditions for the importation of live cattle under 30 months of age and certain other commodities from regions with effective BSE prevention and detection measures.

“That rule also designated Canada as the first minimal-risk country recognized by USDA. This current proposal would expand the scope of the 2005 rule to facilitate fair, science-based trade, consistent with international standards as defined by the World Organization for Animal Health,” Clifford said.

USDA withdrew a similar rule last year when a 50-month-old Canadian cow, born after Canada's 1997 ruminant feed ban, tested positive for BSE. After four months of examining Canadian safeguards, USDA returned the proposal for review.

Folks wishing to comment on the proposed rule should send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2006-0041, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD, 20737-1238.

Or submit comments electronically by visiting www.regulations.gov, selecting “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service” from the drop-down menu, then clicking on “Submit.” In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0041 to submit or view public comments and to view the proposal and the supporting and related materials available electronically.

Meanwhile, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) filed a brief urging the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to remand its litigation against USDA back to the District Court of Montana. The brief claims the District Court ruled last August against R-CALF's request for a permanent injunction on Canadian cattle and beef trade into the U.S. only because the District Court incorrectly concluded the 9th Circuit already had resolved the merits of R-CALF's entire case.

The brief says hundreds of pages of additional material was not considered by the 9th Circuit in overturning the preliminary injunction. In addition, that information wasn't considered by the District Court before it ultimately ruled in USDA's favor in August 2006, R-CALF contends.

The U.S. Department of Justice was to file a responsive brief on behalf of USDA by Jan. 25, with supporting amicus briefs due a week later.