Cattle Producers Urge Congress To Rein In USDA

WASHINGTON – After the recent massive recalls of beef due to E. coli contamination, and after many other recent food scares, members of R-CALF USA were pleased to learn that Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has announced he will again mandate a Presidential Commission on food safety in the Senate version of the 2007 Farm Bill. Such a mandate was included in the 2002 Farm Bill, but was never constituted or allowed to meet.
calendar icon 5 October 2007
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R-Calf Cheered Harkin for Mandating Presidential Commission on Food Safety

Harkin pointed out that the recent Interagency Working Group on Import Safety, established in July, will review only imported foods. This is a shortsighted goal given the increasing number of food safety recalls happening with food produced in the United States, he said in a statement.

“To examine the safety of both imported and domestically produced food, comprehensive recommendations from a Food Safety Commission are needed…to examine the entire system,” the statement said.

“R-CALF USA would again like to emphasize our concern with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its continued relaxation of import health and safety standards with regard to cattle and beef,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian.

“Not only is R-CALF worried about the introduction of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) from Canada and Japan, we also want to know why the agency has such a nonchalant attitude when USDA’s own research shows that about 75 percent of the bovine tuberculosis cases detected at U.S. slaughtering facilities originated in Mexico,” he pointed out.

“USDA is mandated to protect the U.S. livestock industry, but instead, seems intent upon its idea of creating a North American cattle industry,” Thornsberry asserted. “The Secretary of Agriculture should be working on behalf of independent U.S. cattle producers to make sure the whole world knows we have the safest, most wholesome beef supply on the planet, and he also should be taking the steps necessary to prevent the introduction of foreign animal diseases.”

Below are just a few examples of how USDA continues to implement policy that lowers U.S. health and safety import standard for cattle and beef:

  1. USDA has lowered U.S. import restrictions for beef and cattle from BSE-affected countries below international standards (the U.S. does not comply with the OIE standard to exclude high risk tissues from all animal feed and fertilizer) and below the world norm (the U.S. requires less BSE testing, weaker SRM removal requirements, and a weaker feed ban than other BSE-affected countries).
  2. USDA is proposing to allow imports of older Canadian cattle into the U.S. provided they are born after March 1, 1999, the date USDA claims was when the Canadian feed ban was effectively enforced. However, five of the seven cases of BSE detected in Canada since January 2006 were born after the March 1, 1999, eligibility date.
  3. USDA’s risk assessment model predicts the U.S. will import 19 BSE-positive cattle into the U.S. from Canada under its proposed rule to further relax U.S. BSE protections. Allowing BSE-infected cattle into the U.S. is contrary to Congress’ mandate to prevent the introduction of diseases like BSE into the United States.
  4. USDA is proposing to allow fresh and chilled beef from a region within Argentina, despite an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Argentina in 2006.
  5. USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has informed USDA that approximately 75 percent of bovine tuberculosis cases detected at slaughter originated from Mexico, yet USDA has not taken steps to prevent the continual introduction of bovine TB from Mexico.
  6. USDA’s OIG found that the U.S. ignored the fact that Canadian meatpackers were not meeting the U.S. equivalency standard, and yet Canadian meat was still exported to the United States.
“R-CALF hopes that Congress will take decisive steps to rein in USDA so we can restore adequate protections for the long-term health and safety of the U.S. cattle herd and U.S. beef consumers,” Thornsberry concluded.

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