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Group Requests Separate Investigations into Packer's Use of Imported Canadian Cattle

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Billings, Mont. -- Based on information received from R-CALFUSA member-ranchers in Washington state, R-CALFUSA on Monday, Aug. 24, 2009, made a written request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate a potential violation of USDA requirements for the importation into the U.S. of Canadian cattle.

R-CALF USA was informed 405 Canadian feeder cattle that were permitted by the state of Washington to be fed in a dry feedlot at the Agri Beef Co.-owned El Oro Cattle Feeders feedlot in Moses Lake, Wash., were instead diverted to range land and found to be grazing near North Port, Wash., on the Three Rivers Ranger District in the Colville National Forest.

The state of Washington required these imported Canadian cattle to be tested for brucellosis and/or bovine tuberculosis before leaving the dry feedlot, unless they were delivered for slaughter. However, R-CALFUSA's investigation revealed that the imported Canadian cattle were diverted without being tested, and these untested cattle have commingled with domestic cattle herds owned by Washington state ranchers.

As a result, the domestic cattle owned by area ranchers have been exposed to a potential risk of bovine tuberculosis and/or brucellosis.

In its request for investigation, R-CALFUSA has asked USDA to investigate whether the imported Canadian cattle, which allegedly circumvented Washington state testing requirements, also had entered the United States under a health certificate that may have contained false or misleading information.

"Due to Canada's ongoing problem with BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), U.S. law requires the importer of Canadian cattle to disclose both the purpose for which the cattle are imported, as well as the destination where the cattle are to be moved after importation, and this information is to be included on the health certificate for ruminants that must accompany the imported cattle," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

"We want to determine if these imported cattle, which have now potentially exposed domestic cattle to an increased risk for disease, had circumvented not only the state of Washington testing law but the federal import law as well," he emphasized.

In addition, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, R-CALFUSA filed a separate written request for an investigation concerning this incident with the U.S. Department of Justice and USDA's Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

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In its request for investigation, R-CALF USA states that in addition to exposing domestic cattle to potential disease spread, it is the opinion of the group that imported Canadian cattle owned by Agri Beef Co. were not authorized to graze on the Three Rivers Ranger District in the Colville National Forest.

R-CALF USA has asked Justice and GIPSA to determine if Agri Beef Co.'s use of these imported Canadian cattle constituted an unfair and deceptive practice under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

"We believe the effect of Agri Beef Co.'s improper use of these imported Canadian cattle was to lower the company's cost of cattle procurement and to reduce the demand for domestic cattle," Bullard alleged. "Given Agri Beef Co.'s market dominance in the Pacific Northwest, it is our opinion this is an example of a meatpacker engaging in unfair and deceptive practices that gives the company the ability to unfairly lower both the demand and price for domestic cattle raised by Washington state cattle ranchers."

R-CALF USA informed Justice and GIPSA there may be up to 26,000 imported Canadian cattle that were supposed to have been delivered to the El Oro Cattle Feeders feedlot since April 2009 and it asked the agencies to determine the disposition of these cattle as well.

"We are hopeful there is now sufficient information regarding these imported cattle to enable the agencies to determine the extent to which Agri Beef Co. may be using imported Canadian cattle to engage in anti-competitive practices and/or antitrust activities that are effectively lowering the value of domestic cattle in the Pacific Northwest," Bullard said.

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"U.S. cattle producers already face the prospect of lower cattle prices than they received last year and they can hardly withstand the adverse market effects of a meatpacker using unfair and deceptive practices to gain a pricing advantage in the marketplace," he concluded. "We hope our federal agencies will get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible."

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R-CALF USA, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues. R-CALF USA, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated (more...)

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