Appeals Court Prevents Company From Testing for Mad Cow Disease

September 4th, 2008

Cattle Producers Disappointed in Court’s Creekstone Decision

Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund
Shae Dodson

Billings, Mont. – R-CALF USA was disappointed to learn that a federal appeals court in a split decision on Friday sided with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its efforts to ban Creekstone Farms Premium Beef (Creekstone) from testing cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). USDA argued that it must control the BSE-testing kits, even though Creekstone had previously spent a great deal of money to build a USDA-compliant testing lab at its facility in Arkansas, Kan.

As far back as 2004, major U.S. beef export customers “such as Japan and South Korea” indicated they would prefer to purchase beef from cattle that had been tested for the fatal disease. Additionally, a coalition that represented all segments of the U.S. cattle and beef industries R-CALF USA, Creekstone, Gateway, Costco Wholesale Corp., and the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group formally requested that former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman allow Creekstone to test for BSE in order to meet the demands of its customers.

R-CALF USA still maintains that USDA’s outright refusal to allow private businesses to voluntarily test cattle for BSE to meet the purchase requirements of their customers has harmed cattle producers, packers, wholesalers and retail businesses that sell beef, particularly those businesses that export beef to Asia,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “For an unnecessarily long period of time following the December 2003 discovery of a BSE-infected cow imported from Canada, USDA failed to reopen most export markets for U.S. beef. Rather than oppose Creekstone, USDA should have worked with beef processors to help them establish standards for voluntary BSE testing that would respond to the demands of their customers.

It is R-CALF USA’s position that USDA has prevented beef processors like Creekstone from meeting market-driven product standards standards which Creekstone was willing to impose voluntarily and which would have allowed the U.S. to more quickly restore our Asian export markets.

“The consequences of USDA and now the courts denying voluntary BSE testing effectively shield the less innovative, less nimble and less responsive beef processors from the competitive capacity of cutting-edge beef processors like Creekstone,” Bullard pointed out. “Unfortunately, the courts have allowed USDA to continue to abuse its regulatory authority by hamstringing market competition, particularly in this instance, where Creekstone intended to use BSE testing procedures identical to those used by USDA.”

R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALF USA has dozens of affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.

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