|A federal judge in Montana delayed the U.S. government's plan to resume importing cattle from Canada
until a full hearing can be held on allegations the animals pose a risk to public health because of mad cow
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull in Billings, Montana, today ordered the delay at the request of
ranchers who argued the government hadn't done enough to ensure Canadian cattle are free of the
disease, a lawyer for the ranchers said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture planned to ease the ban
March 7 after concluding the animals posed a minimal risk.
''I am very disappointed,'' U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in an e-mailed statement.
"Today's ruling is not a reflection on the substance of the minimal-risk rule, but rather a procedural delay
while the judge considers the merits of the case.''
Delaying Canadian imports will keep cattle supply tight in the U.S. for beef producers including Tyson
Foods Inc. and Swift & Co., which cut output because of the rising cost of livestock. The Agriculture
Department yesterday estimated Canada would ship 1.3 million head of cattle across the border between
March 7 and the end of the year.
Fattened cattle futures for April delivery rose 0.3 cent to 86.8 cents a pound on the Chicago Mercantile
Exchange after the ruling. Prices were up 12 percent from a year ago. May feeder cattle futures fell 1.65
cents to 98.325 cents a pound, with the most-active contract gaining 14 percent in the past 12 months.
Montana-based Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, as R-CALF, had asked the court to
block the USDA plan, saying it would endanger U.S. livestock, the economy and public health by increasing exposure to mad
cow disease, which has a fatal human form. Its suit was filed Jan. 10.