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From: TSS ()
Subject: NCBA, others blast USDA over scattershot BSE policy
Date: June 20, 2005 at 6:48 pm PST

##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

NCBA, others blast USDA over scattershot BSE
policy

by Pete Hisey on 6/20/2005 for Meatingplace.com

In a Friday meeting with Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Jim McAdams, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association complained bitterly that USDA's scattershot approach to testing cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy has caused financial losses to cattle farmers that can "never be recovered."

McAdams' public lashing of USDA was one of several last week, as a number of frequently divergent industry groups denounced the agency's public announcement that a suspect cow, thought months ago to be BSE-free, will now be retested using a method that the department had previously argued was unnecessary. (See 'November cow' tests positive for BSE using Western blot, , Meatingplace.com, June 13, 2005.) That reversal has sparked a flurry of media activity questioning both the efficacy and consistency of USDA's testing protocols.

The Kansas Livestock Association weighed in, expressing its members' "anger" at facing "unnecessary exposure to market risk because of the way USDA is handling this situation. KLA suggested in a letter to Johanns that USDA, with input from the beef industry, "develop a science-based protocol for BSE testing and adhere to it. Deviation from established procedures jeopardizes consumer confidence, international trade and the economic well-being of producers."

Meanwhile, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, leveled charges of excessive secrecy and lack of transparency at USDA. "I can't remember a time when USDA has demonstrated as much uncertainty and secrecy as it has shown over the last few days," said Leo McDonnell, R-CALF's president and co-founder.

NCBA's objections to USDA policy were strongly worded, particularly for an association so often allied to USDA and its policies. "We believe it is imperative that USDA clearly restore integrity to the process to avoid further and lasting criticism that can jeopardize consumer confidence and access to international markets, and creates unnecessary market volatility," McAdams said, paraphrasing his remarks to Johanns during their meeting Friday morning. "NCBA remains committed to a science-based approach in addressing these concerns, but we simply cannot tolerate actions that serve political pressures or pseudo-science over a sound surveillance program. The only reason this particular sample ever became a major concern is the apparent break from established scientific protocol by USDA, which we feel has not been adequately explained."

Both NCBA and R-CALF noted that the uncertainty USDA has created with its approach is probably more harmful than a single positive test result could ever be. "Many producers have suffered very real losses that will never be recovered," McAdams said.

McDonnell, for his part, expressed dismay that after cattlemen suffered significant losses while waiting for the original IHC results last fall, they're now suffering even more losses because USDA did not firmly establish that the animal in question was disease-free.

"U.S. cattle producers thought this issue was settled more than seven months ago because USDA told the public the BSE tests it used were the 'gold standard,'" McDonnell said. "USDA is now parading the most recent test results as a 'weak positive,' without providing any information to the industry…we have no idea if the animal is domestic or imported, the precise age of the cow, nor the breed."

http://www.meatingplace.com/MembersOnly/webNews/details.aspx?item=14408

TSS

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