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Meat and food groups issue briefs in support of opening beef trade with Canada.

The Amicus Curiae brief filed by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and six other organizations was one of several briefs submitted last week in support of USDA's effort to expand beef and cattle trade with Canada. Signing onto AMI's brief were 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. Filing a separate brief to reopen trade were the American Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association along with 18 state farm bureaus, 29 state cattle organizations, and the National Pork Producers Council.

An AMI statement notes that, "The briefs provide further ballast to arguments by the USDA," which is appealing a preliminary injunction, granted March 2 by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull in Billings, Montana, at the request of Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund (R-CALF). The injunction effectively keeps the Canadian border closed to trade in live cattle and beef less than 30 months of age.

"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 Patrick Boyle in a statement. "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," Boyle noted.

AMI and others 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.
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Comment:Meat and food groups issue briefs in support of opening beef trade with Canada.
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 2, 2005
Words:545
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