R-CALF USA on Monday filed a notice of appeal in U.S. District Court -- District of Montana of an April decision by District Judge Richard F. Cebull. That decision denied R-CALF's request for a permanent injunction against USDA's Final Rule allowing imports of cattle under 30 months of age and beef products from cattle younger than 30 months of age into the U.S. from Canada.

A preliminary injunction, granted to R-CALF by the district court in March 2005, was reversed in July 2005 by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. R-CALF then asked the district court to hear arguments on its pending motion for summary judgment, but Cebull instead decided, in effect, that the 9th Circuit already had decided the merits of the case.

In his April 2006 decision, Cebull said his "hands were tied" and the 9th Circuit had instructed him to 'abide by this deferential standard,' and 'respect the agency's judgment and expertise.'"
USDA has determined that allowing the importation of certain Canadian ruminants and ruminant products under the conditions imposed by the rule will continue to protect against introducing additional cases of BSE into the U.S.

Further, USDA says that by establishing criteria for minimal-risk regions, the U.S. has taken a leadership role in fostering trade of low-risk products with countries that have a low incidence of BSE and historically strong risk-mitigation measures. The agency also says such a move is consistent with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recommendations for the trade in animals and animal products from BSE-affected countries.

Yet, R-CALF remains frustrated over what it perceives as the absence of a full consideration of the merits of its case. "The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July 2005 that USDA should be given deference in this matter," says R-CALF president Chuck Kiker. "But, there's never been an evaluation of all of the evidence, by either the 9th Circuit or the District Court."

Kiker says R-CALF wants the opportunity to make certain USDA's decision-making on this Final Rule gets a thorough review of the scientific evidence regarding BSE. R-CALF hopes the 9th Circuit will remand the case back down to Judge Cebull so he can make a decision on the case's merits.

USDA's Final Rule provides the following requirements for live Canadian feeder cattle, designed to ensure they're harvested before reaching 30 months of age:

  • Feeder cattle must be permanently branded to identify the BSE minimal-risk region of origin before entering the U.S. Feeder cattle exported from Canada will be branded with "CAN."
  • Cattle must be individually ID'd with an ear tag before entering the U.S. This ear tag allows the animal to be traced back to the premises of origin (birth herd).
  • Information must be included on the cattle's animal health certification, relating to animal ID, origin, destination and responsible parties.
  • Cattle must be moved to feedlots in sealed containers and can't go to more than one feedlot.
  • Specified risk materials will be removed from Canadian cattle slaughtered in the U.S. in accordance with FSIS regulations.

-- Clint Peck