DOJ: News Release

McGrath, North Dakota AG: Delay Opening of Canadian Border

HELENA – Citing risks to public health and the economy, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath and North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem Wednesday filed a brief supporting an injunction to keep the U.S. border closed to Canadian cattle. Five other attorneys general also signed the brief.

The friend-of-the-court brief was submitted in U.S. District Court in Billings, in support of a request for an injunction by the Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA). R-CALF, a non-profit association of cattle producers and feedlot owners, sued the U. S. Department of Agriculture in January, and asked for the injunction in early February.

In late December, the USDA released a final rule recognizing Canada as “presenting minimal risk” of introducing bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE) or “mad cow disease” into the U.S. The USDA rule allowing the importation of meat and live cattle from Canada is scheduled to go into effect March 7.

“Our position is that the USDA’s plan should be put on hold until the court considers the pending case,” McGrath said. “The potential consequences to U.S. producers and consumers could be catastrophic. Delaying the USDA’s hasty decision and allowing full consideration by the court is the right thing to do.”

“We lost our export markets when Canada had its first BSE case in May 2003,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer. “In response we closed the border and studied the system. Since then, we found the feed had been compromised and more BSE cases have been discovered.

“How can we open the border when the causal agent is still compromised?” Schweitzer said. “We have a responsibility to our producers, and we have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of our consumers.”

In early January, two Canadian cows were found to have BSE.

The Montana-North Dakota brief states, “These new BSE cases require reassessment of USDA analyses presuming a ‘very low’ presence of BSE and conclusions about the ‘very low’ risks if the border is reopened.”

In addition to McGrath and Stenehjem, attorneys general from Connecticut, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota and West Virginia joined the brief.

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