From: TSS ()
Subject: SENATOR HARKIN URGES USDA TO IMPROVE INCONSISTENT BSE POLICIES
Date: July 13, 2005 at 1:04 pm PST
HARKIN URGES USDA TO IMPROVE INCONSISTENT BSE POLICIES
THURSDAY, JULY 7, 2005
WASHINGTON, DC – In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to strengthen its BSE testing and surveillance program. Citing inconsistencies and shifting policies, Harkin requested Secretary Johanns investigate recent testing mishaps and develop a consistent and transparent approach for BSE testing and surveillance. Harkin is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
“Confidence in USDA’s anti-BSE measures is absolutely critical to maintaining consumer confidence in beef, protecting U.S. cattle herds, and reopening closed markets.” Harkin said.
Among the major issues Harkin outlined in the letter:
Ø Secretary Johanns must immediately follow through on curing recently disclosed problems with BSE testing and ensure that similar lapses do not occur in the future.
Ø USDA should not limit its cooperation and responsiveness with the Inspector General due to disagreements over the handling of the retested sample.
Ø The Department’s sampling methods for testing high risk cattle are questionable. The Inspector General has said there are inherent problems with this approach.
Ø Despite repeated promises by USDA to test 20,000 normal, aged cattle as part of its expanded surveillance system, the Department has decided not to test this subpopulation of cattle without informing the public or justify the decision.
Ø USDA is moving at a slow pace towards implementing a national animal identification system, despite USDA’s commitment to expedite this process. The lack of a national animal identification system in this country is undermining the United States’ ability to restore beef and cattle trade
“USDA needs to correct the problems in its testing and surveillance program and be forthright with the public when policies change.” Harkin said. “I urge the Secretary take the necessary steps to ensure confidence in America’s BSE surveillance and prevention systems.”
Senator Harkin has been a leader in pressing USDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies to develop a comprehensive plan that provides proper management and prevention of BSE in U.S. cattle. Earlier this year, Senator Harkin released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report detailing recommendations to strengthen FDA’s ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban.
A copy of the letter is attached (four pages).
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HARKIN CALLS ON USDA TO IMPLEMENT COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELING
FRIDAY, JULY 8, 2005
WASHINGTON, DC – In a bipartisan letter to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately publish an interim final rule on mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL). The 2002 farm bill requires USDA to implement a program informing consumers about the country of origin for meat, fruits and vegetables and peanuts, yet the rules to establish this program are long overdue. Harkin is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
“USDA needs to get a rule out now,” Harkin said. “More foot dragging and waiting until the last minute to issue a rule will cause even further unnecessary delays for this program.”
COOL for meat, fruits and vegetables and peanuts will become mandatory on September 30, 2006. USDA has had a year and a half to publish an interim final rule, but has yet to do so. This interim final rule is necessary so that producers, industry and retailers have sufficient time to make comments and understand the requirements of COOL. USDA has already implemented the labeling requirements for fish and shellfish on grocery store shelves.
“This delay, along with USDA’s over inflated cost estimates for COOL, seems to be another indicator that USDA is determined to nullify what was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.” Harkin said. “The Secretary of Agriculture has full discretion within the law to write a common sense, cost-effective and flexible rule in a timely manner.”
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