Washington, D.C. – Cattle producers were pleased to learn that a bipartisan group of four Senators from major cattle-producing states sent a letter of concern to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) proposed rule (Rule 2) that would permit live Canadian cattle born after March 1, 1999, to be imported into the United States.

USDA published this proposed rule in the Federal Register on Jan. 9. In particular, the rule deals with Canadian cattle over 30 months (OTM) of age. Public comments on the proposal are due March 12. Authors of the letter to USDA were: Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

“Increasing U.S. imports of Canadian cattle and beef at this time would have a significant negative impact on the economic well-being of American cattle producers and could seriously disrupt our efforts to expand U.S. beef exports overseas…Furthermore, expanding Canadian cattle imports increases the possibility that a future case of BSE in a Canadian animal may be found in the United States. Three of Canada’s nine BSE cases occurred in cattle born long after the March 1, 1999 date proposed in the rule…” the letter stated in part.

“R-CALF thanks these four Senators for recognizing this issue is critical to independent U.S. cattle producers, and we hope other members of Congress will follow their lead in urging USDA to withdraw this proposed rule at once,” said R-CALF USA President and Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a veterinarian who also chairs the R-CALF USA Animal Health Committee.

Specifically, Thornsberry said, R-CALF USA requests USDA to rescind Rule 2 for the following reasons:

1) The U.S. should not give additional access to the U.S. market until the United States fully regains the share of global export markets it lost since the 2003 discovery of a BSE-positive Canadian cow that was imported into Washington state.

2) The U.S. should not further relax its already lenient import standards until it can be scientifically documented that BSE is no longer circulating in Canadian feed or OTM Canadian cattle and there is international acceptance for such a conclusion.

3) The U.S. should not allow the importation of OTM cattle or beef, which are known to be of higher risk for transmitting BSE, particularly now that the disease is known to have been circulating in animals born years after the Canadian feed ban was implemented in 1997.

4) The U.S. should not allow OTM cattle or beef from Canada until both the U.S. and Canada have significantly strengthened their respective feed bans, and sufficient time has lapsed to ascertain the effectiveness of any feed-ban improvements. Given the known breeches in Canada’s feed ban, Canada must significantly ramp up its BSE testing so that the effectiveness of its feed ban can be more accurately monitored.

5) The U.S. should not allow OTM Canadian cattle or beef into the United States until the U.S. additionally obtains firm assurances from all U.S. beef export markets – and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) – that the United States’ BSE-risk profile would not be downgraded to Canada’s level if the Canadian OTM cattle and beef are allowed into the U.S. market and available for export.

6) The U.S. should not allow OTM Canadian cattle or beef into the United States until the U.S. additionally implements country-of-origin labeling (COOL) to mitigate the financial harm that will inevitably befall U.S. cattle producers, and that likely will be more severe than what USDA will predict.

Thornsberry said R-CALF USA members are encouraged to file comments in opposition to the proposed rule before the March 12 deadline. Submit comments by either of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov, select “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service” from the agency drop-down menu, then click “Submit.” In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0041 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including

instructions for accessing documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket after the close of the comment period, is available through the site’s “User Tips” link.

Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send four copies of your comment (an original and three copies) to Docket No. APHIS 2006-0041, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS 2006-0041.

Note: To view a copy of the Senators’ letter, USDA’s proposed rule, as well as R-CALF USA’s position paper and talking points on the matter, please visit the “BSE-Litigation” link at www.r-calfusa.com.