R-CALF Gears Up For Border Fight

Group ready to use congressional veto to protect U.S. cattle herd. Jacqui Fatka

For months R-CALF has been working hard to keep the border closed to Canadian beef. Many attribute the rule delay to R-CALF's preliminary injunction imposed in April after the organization discovered the USDA was allowing Canadian beef not approved for export to enter the U.S. food supply.

R-CALF has two main avenues to prevent the border from opening as scheduled on March 7, 2005. R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard says the first step the organization will take is to carefully review the final rules and determine the impact on the cattle industry.

Bullard says the description by USDA of the final rule looks very similar to the proposed rule, which R-CALF had several concerns. R-CALF submitted 450 pages of comments in an attempt to address those concerns. "If our assumption is correct, we'll begin to work with Congress to halt the opening," he says.

The rule calls for a mandatory 60-day congressional review period. It will still come into effect on the March 7th date unless Congress takes action before then to prevent the flow of cattle. Bullard says Congress has the power to do that, and he hopes to continue working with representatives from cattle producing states who've supported them in the past to make it happen. In addition, he says if the review finds that consumers are at a greater risk, R-CALF will also begin seeking support from urban congressional members.

However, at this time it doesn't appear that R-CALF has enough support in the House or Senate to pass the veto. R-CALF is concerned that meat from Canada can now be co-mingled with U.S. beef. Without country-of-origin labeling, consumers will not have the ability to exercise their right to choose, Bullard says. R-CALF says COOL is a food safety issue, not marketing, which COOL opponents say. There is more support for COOL in the Senate compared to the House.

Other potential avenues for R-CALF to prevent the border reopening are to request an extension of the injunction or start a new battle in court.

As of Jan. 9, 2005, the R-CALF requested preliminary injunction put on the importation of Canadian beef products and live cattle will end. The injunction was set to expire five days after the publication of a final rule, scheduled for Jan. 4.

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