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South Dakotans Lead Suit Against Canadian Beef Imports

They argue that USDA's new over-30-months-of-age rule will contaminate food and feed with BSE.

South Dakota is the site of a new court case over USDA's plan to allow importation of Canadian cattle to begin Nov. 19.

R-CALF USA and 10 other plaintiffs have filed a complaint against the USDA in a South Dakota district court in an effort to prevent the agency decision from opening the Canadian border to imports of live cattle born after March 1, 1999, and beef products from cattle over 30 months of age.

USDA's decision, often referred to as the over-30-months-of-age (OTM) rule, is scheduled to take effect Nov. 19.

Individual plaintiffs include South Dakota cattle producers Herman Schumacher, Herreid; Robert Mack, Watertown; Ernie Mertz, Bowdle; and Wayne Nelson, Buffalo.

Plaintiff organizations include: R-CALF-USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America), South Dakota Stockgrowers Association; Center for Food Safety; Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation; Food & Water Watch; Public Citizen and Consumer Federation of America.

The OTM rule creates an unjustified and unnecessary increased risk of infection of the U.S. cattle herd with BSE, and of importing beef contaminated with BSE into the U.S., which will expose U.S. consumers to increased risk of a fatal disease, argues Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA chief executive officer.

He says it is a "virtual certainty" that importing Canadian cattle over 30-months old will result in the importation of Canadian cattle infected with BSE (mad cow disease). It will also result in the importation of billions of meat from cattle over 30 months of age slaughtered in Canada, which almost certainly include products from cattle infected with BSE, he says.

If the OTM rule goes into effect, it's also a possibility that contaminated Canadian cattle products, such as blood, will be used in the manufacturing of U.S. cattle feed, he says.

The OTM rule will expose U.S. cattle producers to severe economic hardship because of the reduced marketability of U.S. beef as a result of commingling domestic product with potentially contaminated beef of Canadian origin, Bullard continues.

"We have export customers who refuse to accept beef from the United States unless it is segregated from Canadian product. R-CALF does not believe opening the Canadian border to older cattle and all beef products will increase our export markets. These all are risks that R-CALF finds unacceptable," he says.

Source: R-CALF USA

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