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Increased BSE Testing Begins, Indonesia May Drop US Beef Ban

posted on June 4, 2004

Congress also was busy this week cobbling together a buyout package for U.S. tobacco growers. House Republicans have agreed on a bill that would provide nearly $10 billion to growers of the golden leaf. In exchange, farmers would give up a Depression-era program that propped up prices through quotas. Under the plan, the payout would occur over five years with the cost covered by a portion of the federal tax on cigarettes.

Elsewhere in Washington, USDA this week released a report that found significant investment in food safety upgrades at U.S. meat and poultry plants. The report concludes those investments have improved "the safety of the food supply and practices that control or reduce pathogens."

The report, no doubt, was welcome news to a beef industry that continues to struggle with lingering questions over BSE, or Mad Cow disease.

Increased BSE Testing Begins, Indonesia May Drop US Beef Ban This week, the USDA began its expanded BSE testing and surveillance program. The expansion from just 20 thousand head to between 200 and 268 thousand head over the next year to year-and-a-half, is expected to cost approximately $70 million. Department officials believe there is the possibility an additional BSE positive cow could be found. The USDA is planning to report the number of animals tested and the test results. The program is aimed at testing downer animals and animals more 30 months of age.

(Slug Cattle)

The Organization for Competitive Markets, which is a nonprofit group of citizens concerned with the welfare of rural America, is worried about the USDA's decision to disclose initial positive BSE results. They join other interest groups troubled by the effect of a false positive on the cattle market. Officials with OCM are uneasy with USDA's decision to release positive test results before further investigation has been completed. The plan, they contend, is further evidence that USDA is losing control of BSE policy.

Though most borders remain closed to U.S. beef imports, there have been rumblings that Indonesia has lifted its ban on U.S. beef products. Even so, the USDA, which was aware of the news reports, has yet to be officially informed by the Indonesian government that trade will resume. If true, the Southeast Asian nation would join Mexico and Canada as countries now importing U.S. beef.

Tags: agriculture animals beef diseases food safety Indonesia livestock Mad Cow meat news trade USDA