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WASHINGTON -- Tyson Foods, Inc. has filed a brief in support of the USDA's appeal of a recent court decision that has delayed the reopening of the U.S. border to Canadian cattle imports. The company brief calls the court decision "bad" law and "bad" for consumers and notes there is no scientific basis for keeping the border closed.
A preliminary injunction was granted in early March by a federal judge in Montana, at the request of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF). The injunction has prevented implementation of USDA's minimal-risk rule, which would re-establish U.S. trade with Canada for live cattle less than 30 months of age.
According to the amicus brief Tyson filed Friday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the injunction should be lifted and the final rule should be permitted to take effect.
The company said the USDA rule is supported by an "impressive scientific record" and designed to help protect the consumer and the U.S. beef industry from the threat of BSE. "The district court simply failed to engage the administrative record in this case," Tyson said in the brief. The result is an opinion riddled with "a number of errors."
Tyson notes, "...the court barely acknowledges that R-CALF is seeking to halt the implementation of a final rule adopted in 2005 after years of careful study and analysis by an agency (USDA) acting within its area of expertise."
The factual record compiled by the agency demonstrates that "given the risk management system in place between Canada and the United States, there is no basis for barring the importation of cattle less than 30 months of age for slaughter."
According to Tyson, "The overall result of the district court's approach is higher domestic beef prices for consumers and greater friction with our trading partners, all with no corresponding public health benefits. In short, the district court's approach is bad food safety policy, bad administrative law and bad for consumers."
Tyson states the district court's decision "undermines the public interest by ignoring a particularly detailed and well reasoned regulatory analysis in favor of the views of a small group of self-interested cattlemen who are concerned only with prohibiting the import of cattle with which they would otherwise have to compete."
Like most meatpackers, Tyson has been running its U.S. beef plants at reduced levels of production due, in part, to the continued U.S. ban on Canadian cattle. About three to five percent of the cattle purchased for the company's domestic plants have historically come from Canada. Earlier this year the company temporarily suspended operations for more than month at four plants as well as second shift processing at another facility.