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Truth on testing

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Bill

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Our Perspective
I Hate To Be A Cynic, But Here's A Good Reason
One thing I've always enjoyed about this industry is that even when people share wide differences of opinion, they can still usually agree on the facts. It saddens me to say that's no longer the case.

I'm not talking about an honest misinterpretation of data, but out-and-out manipulation of data purely to deceive others into believing something is true.

It's the kind of activity the industry sees from activist groups all the time. They believe so strongly in their agenda, they look past the poor ethics and immorality of doing whatever it takes to keep their followers energized and their cause out in front of the populace.

What has been the tactic of outfits like People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Animal Liberation Front is now at work in our industry. I refer to an R-CALF press release issued this week that proclaimed Canada had decreased its BSE testing of live cattle by 28%. Using that as a basis, R-CALF went on to contend that Canadian testing is so insufficient that the world community has no way to judge the risk of BSE in Canada.

In order to come up with that 28% reduction number, R-CALF compared December -- a very large month for slaughter animals in Canada -- to all of the first quarter of 2005 (January to March). The reality is first-quarter slaughter levels were tighter than December because Canadians were anticipating the border reopening and higher price levels.

The reality is Canada's testing for January through April (April saw a flood of cattle when it became obvious the border wouldn't reopen) was up 800% compared to the same time frame in 2004. Canada's goal was to test 30,000 high-risk animals in 2005; it's actually on a pace to nearly double that.

The U.S. testing system is great, and Canada's is essentially equivalent to ours. Canada, however, is also paying significant dollars to test high-risk cattle, something the U.S. doesn't do. Don't get me wrong, the U.S. testing system is probably far more extensive than justified, but the reality is that so is Canada's.

Once again, the facts just don't seem to matter to R-CALF. And if the price is raising consumer and international concerns unjustifiably, that's good enough for R-CALF.
-- Troy Marshall
 

Big Muddy rancher

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Time To Put The 100% Testing Debate To Rest
The Kansas Department of Agriculture and Kansas State University released last week the most extensive report yet on the economic effect of BSE. It showed the U.S. industry had lost $3.2 to $4.7 billion as the result of BSE.

The report did a great job of detailing U.S. producer losses to BSE, and the long-term structural changes that will forever change the revenue dynamics of our industry in a negative way. But this wasn't the portion of the report that received the most discussion.

Receiving the most coverage is the study's conclusion on the potential lost revenue when USDA decided against 100% testing. The report maintains that if the U.S. had retained its export markets (which wasn't assured), and BSE-tested less than 25% of its cattle, the cost would have been a little more than $600 million (not factoring in any implementation costs, and assuming the cost of testing would fall), meaning the industry could have captured around $800 million more rather than losing the billions it did.

Of course, if we had universal testing, we would continue to incur those costs in the long term, which would also change the dynamics.

Without question, USDA miscalculated how long it would take for Japan to accept the science and admit 100% testing was unnecessary. But, with the entire world in agreement that testing animals younger than 30 months is a waste, the U.S. already has made a significant concession to get trade re-established and one that is not without cost. It is time for the calls for mandatory testing to end.
-- Troy Marshall
 

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