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USDA Report Finds Illegal Beef Imports Entered U.S.

Agency's inspector general said ag officials allowed illegal importation of Canadian meat products before judge's ruling.

A new report released from the Agriculture Department's inspector general found that prior to a Montana judge's ruling to halt imports of Canadian beef last April, ag officials allowed more kinds of Canadian meat products that were at greater risk for the disease.

An Associated Press reports says USDA allowed Canada to ship 42,000 pounds of questionable meat despite restrictions put in place in May 2003 and expanded in August of that year.

USDA is scheduled to open the border to Canadian live cattle under 30 months of age beginning March 7. Currently R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America, the same group who had the border closed to additional meat products in April 2004, has another request for an injunction on the March 7 rule. R-CALF says the findings of this latest report bolster its case set for a hearing March 2.

R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard says the report shows issues that need to be resolved and corrected before the "United States takes the leap of exposing the U.S. cattle industry to products from a country where BSE is known to exist." USDA spokesman Jim Rogers says the problems cited in the report have been or are in the process of being fixed.

In all, the agency issued 1,144 permits for imported meat "without ensuring that the agency had an appropriate system of internal controls to manage the process," the report found.

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