USDA Ordered to
Justify Claim that it Satisfied the Injunction
Awarded to R-CALF USA, Consumer Groups, Other
Cattle Groups and Individual Ranchers
R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America,
"Fighting for the U.S. Cattle Producer", Press
Billings, MT - After nearly four years of agency
inaction, the previously intense, eight-year
legal battle waged against the U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA) by U.S. cattle producers
and U.S. consumers over the agency's persistent
efforts to increase the risk of introducing
bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow
disease) into the United States has reignited.
In 2008, the U.S. District Court for the
District of South Dakota (the Court) granted
R-CALF USA, consumer groups, other cattle groups
and individual ranchers an injunction against
the USDA's final rule issued Sept. 18, 2007.
That 2007 final rule reopened the U.S. border to
Canadian cattle older than 30 months of age and
Canadian beef from cattle of any age, even while
Canada continued to experience numerous
outbreaks of BSE in cattle that met the age
requirements for export to the United States.
The Court found that USDA had violated its own
rulemaking process in issuing the 2007 final
rule and remanded the rule to USDA. The Court
ordered the agency to provide the public with
proper notice and comment period, to file
quarterly progress reports with the Court, and
to make any changes to the final rule the agency
deemed necessary after reviewing public
For nearly four years, USDA drug its feet and
though it initiated some of the Court's
directives, it refused to fully comply with the
injunction. Until recently, it was uncertain
what USDA was up to.
In March 2012, USDA's strategy was revealed. The
agency issued an entirely new proposed rule that
not only alters the 2007 final rule, but also,
it greatly increases the risk of exposing U.S.
citizens and the U.S. cattle herd to BSE. The
agency proposes to open U.S. borders to imports
from countries such as the United Kingdom,
Ireland, Portugal and Spain where thousands of
BSE cases have been detected in cattle and more
than 200 human deaths have been linked to the
human form of BSE. Five of those human deaths
occurred as recently as 2011.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard reacted to USDA's
proposal by stating: "This Proposed Rule by the
Obama Administration represents a greater risk
to the safety of our U.S. food supply than any
previous rulemaking by any previous
Administration in recent memory."
Entwined within USDA's new proposal was a
section purporting to comply with the Court's
injunction. And, in March USDA sent
a notice to
the Court stating it had finally fulfilled the
Court's nearly four-year-old 2008 order.
replied to USDA's notice and objected to
USDA's claim. It informed the Court that USDA
had only partially complied with the Court's
order because the agency had not yet implemented
the changes to the 2007 final rule that it
deemed necessary. Those changes, R-CALF USA
stated, have so far only been proposed in the
agency's newly proposed rule.
R-CALF USA also indicated to the Court that
during the four years that USDA drug its feet,
numerous factual developments have occurred that
reconfirm and heighten the concerns regarding
the 2007 final rule. Those developments include
Seven additional cases of BSE uncovered in
Canada, all of them in cattle that were born
years after the March 1, 1999 date on which
USDA says the Canadian feed ban was
effectively enforced and therefore virtually
eliminated exposure of Canadian cattle to
- Numerous examples where parts of
Canadian cattle banned from importation by
the 2007 final rule were intercepted at the
U.S. border, further supporting the concern
that the mitigation measures USDA is relying
on to protect U.S. consumers and the U.S.
cattle herd from potential BSE infection in
Canadian cattle may not be complied with
uniformly in practice.
- A new case of BSE was discovered in the
United States (the first since March 2006),
in a California dairy cow that died on the
farm in April 2012. That case is still being
investigated by USDA and others, and its
significance for U.S. BSE risk mitigation
measures is not yet known.
- New scientific studies show the
potential for BSE to be found in a wider
range of cattle organs. One recent study of
the particular strain of BSE that USDA
stated had infected the California cow
detected in April 2012 discovered
infectivity in a variety of peripheral
nerves, including the nerves of the
forelimbs of cattle, albeit at very low
levels. Another study suggests that in
humans, this new strain of BSE is a more
R-CALF USA urged the Court to stay the lawsuit
and continue requiring quarterly reports from
USDA pending the agency's completion of its new
rulemaking process and the completion of the
agency's investigation into the cow detected in
California with what USDA claims to be a
different strain of BSE.
On June 27, the Court, among other things,
to state when the new rulemaking is expected to
be final, and to justify its claim that it had
fulfilled the Court's 2008 order.
"It's a sad state of affairs when food producers
and food consumers have to fight their own
government to protect the safety of our nation's
food supply, but that's exactly where we find
ourselves with the Obama Administration today,"
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen
Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of
America) is a national, nonprofit organization
dedicated to ensuring the continued
profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle
industry. For more information, visit
www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.