A group representing U.S. cattle ranchers announced it has filed suit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana to stop the USDA from lifting a ban on Canadian cattle and beef, according to a Dow Jones report.

The R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America said it has filed the suit "to prevent implementation of a decision that creates an unjustified and unnecessary increased risk of infection of the U.S. cattle herd with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and of importing meat contaminated with BSE into the United States."

The USDA announced Dec. 29 its plan to lift the U.S. ban on Canadian cattle and beef. A few days later, Canada confirmed the discovery of a new case of BSE, or mad-cow disease. USDA officials have said they will pursue the plan to lift the ban despite the new case.

The U.S. originally banned all Canadian beef and cattle in May 2003, after a first case of BSE was found there. The U.S. eased its ban on some Canadian beef - boneless product only - in August 2003 but maintained the prohibition on live cattle and bone-in and processed beef. But in May 2004, USDA officials said the department had been allowing in Canadian processed and bone-in beef products to the U.S. that were not eligible under USDA rules established in August 2003.

R-CALF went to court and successfully stopped USDA from permitting Canadian imports of the bone-in and processed beef.

R-CALF President Leo McDonnell said Monday he believes lifting the ban on Canadian cattle and beef products may damage U.S. efforts to regain major importing markets in Japan and South Korea. "USDA says it wants to reopen our exports markets with Japan and South Korea, but the agency refuses to comprehend the fact that our export markets will be even further damaged once we start mingling Canadian beef with USA beef," McDonnell said.

A 60-day review period for Congress began after USDA published its new rule entitled "Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy: Minimal Risk Regions and Importation of Commodities" that would lift the ban on Canadian cattle, and USDA said it is scheduled to be implemented March 7.