Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) signed on to a letter from R-CALF USA to the USDA requesting that the agency respond to the latest appearance of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or “mad cow disease”) in Canadian livestock. RMFU, which represents family farmers and ranchers in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming, joined Farmers Unions nationwide in co-signing the letter.
Earlier in the month, it was disclosed that the latest Canadian cow afflicted with the illness met USDA’s requirements to enter the United States. USDA’s relaxed import standards, the letter points out, are putting U. S. beef consumers at risk, as well as the U. S. cattle herd and independent U. S. cattle producers.
The R-CALF letter urges the USDA to restore protections against BSE that were in place before USDA began to systematically dismantle its BSE-related border restrictions. USDA first relaxed U. S. safeguards against BSE in 2005, and then further relaxed those safeguards in 2007 with its OTM (over-30-month) Rule, which allows importing Canadian cattle born after March, 1, 1999, and beef from Canadian cattle of any age. As of March 10, 2010, Canada has detected 11 BSE-positive animals born after that date – all of which met USDA’s age requirement for export to the United States.
The USDA places fewer regulations on Canadian cattle than those imposed by the European Union and Japan, “thus assuring that U. S. consumers are less protected against the introduction of BSE into their food supply than are consumers in those countries. ” These less stringent risk controls are also the reason many Asian countries do not except beef imports from the U. S.
In the letter, the groups disagree with the USDA’s assumption that slaughter controls prevent the recycling of BSE into human food and cattle feed. The letter cites dozens of cases in U. S. slaughter facilities and U. S. feed production facilities, involving more than 144 million pounds of beef that illustrate the continued risk to the general public. “It’s pretty clear,” said RMFU President Kent Peppler, a Mead, Colo., farmer and former livestock producer, “that USDA’s assumption that current regulations are addressing the problem is wrong.”