By a unanimous vote of the board of directors, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) will stop the appeals on antidumping cases against Canada and Mexico.
R-CALF stunned industry observers in 1998, when it successfully mounted a campaign to call for investigations of imports of Canadian cattle that were believed to be subsidized and sold below fair value, and imports of Mexican cattle that also were believed to be sold below fair value. The International Trade Commission (ITC) found in its preliminary ruling that there was a reasonable indication that Canadian imports were harming the domestic industry, but made a negative finding as to Mexico. Although the Department of Commerce confirmed that Canadian cattle had been sold at prices as much as $113 per head below fair value, the ITC's final determination concluded that Canadian imports were not injuring the domestic industry. R-CALF had appealed the ITC's negative preliminary injury determination on Mexico to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. R-CALF's appeal of the negative decision on Canada was brought under the provisions of Chapter 19 of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Leo McDonnell Jr., Columbus, MT, R-CALF president, explained: "In our view, the ITC cases were wrongly decided. The appeals process can take a long time, much longer than this industry can afford to wait. We must focus our resources and our energy on where we can make the most difference, and on restoring fair prices and a fair share of the consumer dollar for cattle producers sooner, rather than later. We must have interstate shipment of state inspected meat. Country of origin labeling and restricting the U.S. Department of Agriculture grade stamp to domestically-produced beef are necessary first steps in the right direction. But just as important, we will continue to monitor the live cattle and beef trade from Canada, Mexico and other countries. Bringing a new case, if the facts support it, may be more important and effective than appealing the old
"The cases also revealed some glaring shortcomings in our trade laws, when a large, fragmented industry, such as ours, tried to get relief from unfair imports. The decisions by the ITC and the Department of Commerce have provided a blueprint for changes that are needed in the law and the way it is administered and interpreted, if it is to be effective for industries such as cattle," said Kelley.
R-CALF will be putting more emphasis on legislative action. Through its officers, staff and several R-CALF members who are appointees to federal commissions and advisory groups, R-CALF will continue to fight for producer rights in trade negotiations and to carefully monitor the flow of beef and live cattle into the United States.
On the legislative front, "We are working on country of origin labeling, improved enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and other antitrust measures, as well as developing some mechanism to deal with collapses in commodity prices. If we need to bring another trade case like those we brought against Canada and Mexico, we will," said Herman Schumacher, R-CALF director and owner of Herried Livestock, in Herried, SD. "We had a very successful convention, in February, and our membership is growing. Cattle producers understand the importance of knowing how imports affect them, as well as factors affecting their export opportunities. That is why they support R-CALF's work. R-CALF is in the business of taking action when and where it counts."