On Friday, July 9, 2010, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced it had reached a settlement with AB (Agri Beef) Livestock, which operates the El Oro feedlot, after an 11-month investigation into AB’s import of 400-plus Canadian cattle that were supposed to have gone straight to the El Oro feedlot, but instead were put on Washington state rangeland.
In August 2009, R-CALF USA member-ranchers in Washington state brought the issue to the attention of the organization, which in turn formally contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to request an investigation. R-CALF USA also requested an investigation by USDA into the disposition of approximately 26,000 imported Canadian cattle that had been delivered to El Oro from Canada since April 2009.
“We continue to believe the effect of Agri Beef’s use of these imported Canadian cattle was to lower the company’s cost of cattle procurement and to reduce the demand for domestic cattle,” alleged R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “Given Agri Beef’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.
“We question whether the amount of the settlement adequately reflects the risks that these 400-plus imported cattle posed to our entire U.S. cattle herd, and whether the settlement is sufficient to deter any other Canadian cattle importer from circumventing U.S. laws,” Bullard continued. “In addition, we are hopeful that USDA is continuing its investigation to determine the extent to which Agri Beef (El Oro) may be using imported Canadian cattle to engage in anticompetitive practices and/or antitrust activities that effectively lower the value of domestic cattle in the Pacific Northwest.”
“While R-CALF is pleased that WSDA did launch an investigation into this particular situation with the El Oro feedlot, we do not yet know the disposition of the other approximately 26,000 Canadian cattle that had entered the U.S. through the state of Washington since April 2009,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who also chairs the group’s animal health committee. “We also still need to know if the health records of those 26,000 cattle 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,” he added. “We still need to determine if these additional imported cattle, with the potential to expose domestic cattle to an increased risk for disease, circumvented not only the state of Washington testing law but the federal import law as well.”
According to WSDA’s statement, Agri Beef has agreed to pay a penalty of $20,000 and to reimburse WSDA $15,000 for costs associated with the investigation, and the firm also will enter into a compliance agreement that WSDA believes will increase WSDA’s oversight of Agri Beef’s cattle feeding operations as a model for future industry participation.
Source: R-CALF USA
Poste by Kaci Switzer