Tester adds muscle to restrict Canadian cattle imports

Senator cosponsors bipartisan resolution to block USDA rule

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester has a bone to pick with a new government rule that will allow the U.S. to import unsafe Canadian cattle and beef beginning next month.

Tester just cosponsored a bipartisan resolution that would block the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from moving forward with its Final Rule lifting age restrictions on Canadian cattle on November 19.

Currently, only cattle under 30 months of age are allowed to be imported from Canada, because younger animals are considered to be less of a risk of carrying Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as Mad Cow Disease.  Canada has reported numerous cases of the disease in recent months.

The resolution Tester cosponsored is authored by Senator Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.  The measure would need to be signed into law by President Bush in order to prevent older cattle coming in from Canada.

"This resolution is about making sure the animals coming across our border are safe to eat and won't hurt our own cattle ranchers.  There's no ifs ands or buts about it," Tester said.  "We're running out of time.  This is something Congress needs to pass and the President needs to sign in order to protect everyone."

Dorgan says the commingling of U.S. and Canadian beef is already hurting America's beef export industry.  Several countries banned or limited U.S. beef trade after Mad Cow Disease was discovered in a Canadian-born cow in Washington State nearly four years ago.

"USDA's actions defy common sense," Dorgan said in a letter to his Senate colleagues. "Congressional action is needed to prevent USDA from advancing this rule, further jeopardizing the safety of our food supply and hampering our ability to trade our products internationally."

The U.S. Cattlemen's Association also supports the resolution, saying public debate "will highlight problematic provisions in USDA's Final Rule on the matter."

"We take this issue very seriously.  Montana's cattlemen work far too hard to allow a bad government rule jeopardize their livelihoods," said Brett DeBruycker, President of the Montana Cattlemen's Association.  "We thank Senator Tester for standing by and fighting for Montana's cattle industry."

Joining Tester in cosponsoring Dorgan's resolution are Senators Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Kent Conrad, D-N.D., John Thune, R-S.D., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo.