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The Case That Wouldn't Die PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Wednesday, 06 June 2007
AFF Sentinel Vol.4#18

Don't ask what words went through my mind when I heard the news. I fumed at the risk to the very foundations of our entire beef industry - consumer confidence in beef - as well as our entire export trade, i.e. the rest of the world's consumers. Add to that the livelihoods of many, if not all, American ranchers, feeders and packers.

How could any group but an avowed and relentless enemy of the beef industry intentionally raise this case from the dead? It holds the potential for virtually no good - and tremendous harm and destruction on top of that already caused.

The threat? The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments for July 13, 2007, in the case R-CALF used to keep the border closed to Canadian cattle in 2005. The Court could decide to remand the case back to District Court in Billings for action or rule itself.

Once again it puts the industry's fate not in the hands of those who know, nurture and prosper by it, but in the hands of the judicial system - apparently, the hands of a single judge. The renegades at R-CALF have again risked everything. Heedless of the millions of dollars they have cost the industry, unmindful of the fatal bullets we have dodged with consumers worldwide, R-CALF's fanatics are again firing their legal weapons at the American cattleman and his customers.

You may recall the USDA originally appealed the Eighth District Court's preliminary injunction keeping the border closed. When the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard the appeal, with surprising speed, it reversed the injunction the next day. The 56-page opinion then systematically destroyed R-CALF's case and Judge Richard Cebull's rulings.*

Cebull then declined to hold any more hearings, prompting R-CALF's attorneys to appeal to the Ninth to re-open the case. Again surprisingly, the Ninth agreed to accept briefs, which were due last fall. Now, it has scheduled oral arguments.

As we pointed out earlier this year**, R- CALF's appeal alluded to "new science" but provided little detail. Most of the brief was a laundry list of supposed legal and rulemaking technicalities that resembled desperation more than a case.

In over two years since the original case was filed, nothing scientifically earthshaking has substantially changed over 20 years of worldwide scientific BSE knowledge. The OIE, known as the World Organization for Animal Health, has since further lowered the risk classification of both the U.S. and Canada to "controlled risk," free to export cattle and beef, further confirming USDA's 2004 judgment.

The amicus brief filed in support of USDA counted not only packer and processor associations but a feeder, a rancher and the predominant packinghouse worker's union.

With these risks, why is R-CALF persisting in this game of chicken? Remnant R-CALF is part of the litigation wing of the Liberal Activist Groups (LAG).*** They only feel power and satisfaction when suing someone. Their goals haven't changed: eliminate imports of cattle and beef and ignore the risks to the export trade. They are content to ignore the billions in export sales and 96 percent of the world's population. In their shortsighted minds, exports only make money for packers, not cattlemen.

It is hard to quantify the industry's danger. An attorney familiar with the case told us our "concern is well placed." The Court has had opportunities to quash this case but has not, he pointed out. The court has seen "something interesting," some reason to continue. We don't know whether the interest is in some scientific point, some trade issue or a legal technicality.

Also unknown is whether the Ninth will make some ruling itself or send the case back to the Billings District Court. If it remands, it could give very precise or just general instructions. Unusual happenings have characterized this case all along and nothing precludes them continuing.

With the export situation with Japan and South Korea about as settled as a campground on the dome of an active volcano, we didn't need this case revived. With headlines in the general press constantly questioning the safety of our food supply, we didn't need this case revived.

Attacking the very foundation - consumer confidence in the safety of our product - is reckless and suicidal - again.

*AFF Sentinel, Vol. 2, #34, 35, 36

**AFF Sentinel, Vol. 3, #38, "The Grinch from Billings."

*** R-CALF, Nader's Public Citizen, Carol Tucker Foreman's Consumer Federation of America, Consumer's Union, Organization for Competitive Markets and others

Last Updated ( Monday, 16 July 2007 )
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