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HAY MAKER

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Statement: Negative Test Result on Non-Definitive BSE Case
BILLINGS, MONT. (August 5, 2005) Regarding this week’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that the recent ‘non-definitive’ bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) test result has been determined as negative for the disease, please attribute the following statement to R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard:

“R-CALF USA is pleased with this result, as it reinforces our belief that the single case of BSE detected in June was an extremely isolated case and likely resulted from an early failure of the United States’ first line of defense against BSE – the 1989 ban on imports from countries affected by BSE. However, given the tremendous amount of confusion and uncertainty surrounding USDA’s current testing program, we believe a more scientifically valid testing program is needed in order to establish the highest level of confidence that both U.S. import restrictions and the feed ban have protected our domestic herd from this disease.

“Under the World Organization for Animal Health’s (OIE’s) new approach for BSE testing, if a country only wanted to have the ability to detect one case per 100,000 cattle, approximately 187,000 cattle should be tested, regardless of the size of a particular country’s cattle herd. The United States already has tested more than 426,000 cattle, with only one confirmed domestic case. However, in the rest of the world where BSE has been found, testing is done at rates that allow those BSE-affected countries to detect more than one case per million head of cattle. The exception is Canada, which has tested only around 60,000 cattle – far fewer than any other BSE-affected country and far fewer than is recommended even by the OIE. Notwithstanding the limited testing done in Canada, four cases have already been detected in the province of Alberta.

“In response to USDA’s June announcement of the detection of a 12-year old cow with BSE, R-CALF USA called upon the agency to allow private firms to voluntarily test cattle of any age for BSE to meet international and domestic demand, as well as to expand the BSE testing program in the United States.

“If USDA were to take at least two additional steps, the public’s confidence in the United States’ BSE protection strategy would be boosted significantly, and future USDA announcements regarding uncertain test results would generate far less anxiety than agency announcements over the past year.

“First, USDA should prevent any further exposure to the United States from known sources of BSE. This can only be accomplished by maintaining strict import restrictions against countries where BSE was known to occur in cattle born after implementation of a country’s feed ban. Both Canada and Japan have detected BSE in animals born after the implementation of their respective feed bans.

“Secondly, USDA should reinforce the known weaknesses in the United States’ feed ban. The European experience has proven that a reinforced feed ban is required to prevent the spread of BSE. R-CALF USA continues to call upon USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to exclude all animal protein and animal by-products from all livestock and poultry feed, including blood, poultry litter, plate waste, tallow, and specified risk materials (SRMs), as well as to ban the use of ruminant blood meal, bone meal, and ruminant tallow in milk replacer and colostrums.

“What USDA’s limited testing shows so far is that the United States has a very low prevalence of BSE, with only one domestic case detected, while Canada has a much higher prevalence in much younger cattle. This limited data suggests the U.S. should strengthen, not weaken, its import restrictions and its feed ban - the two most important measures to prevent the introduction and spread of BSE in the United States.”

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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues. R-CALF USA, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALF USA’s membership consists primarily of cow-calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and feedlot owners. Its members – over 18,000 strong – are located in 47 states, and the organization has over 60 local and state association affiliates, from both cattle and farm organizations. Various main street businesses are associate members of R-CALF USA. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.
 

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