AGRICULTURE REPORT - U.S. Cattle Industry Update
By Mario Ritter
Broadcast: Tuesday, February 24, 2004
This is Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
United States agriculture officials have ended their investigation into the case of mad cow disease found in Washington State in December.
The Department of Agriculture reported this month on steps taken to prevent the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE. These include new restrictions on how cattle can be killed.
New rules also ban the use of what are called "downer" cows for human food. Such animals are too sick or injured to walk. However, the infected cow was reported not to have been a downer.
The cow was born in Canada. It was imported into the United States with eighty other cattle. Investigators found twenty-eight of those other cows. In all, officials identified two-hundred-fifty-five of what they called "animals of interest" in the case All were killed. Officials say tests found no additional cases of BSE.
Foreign bans on American beef continue. Major importers like Japan and Mexico say it is too soon to end their bans. They say American officials must do more to test cattle.
International experts appointed by the Agriculture Department urged American farmers to no longer feed any animal protein to their cows. Some protein can spread the disease. The experts also said the United States had probably imported other infected cows.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association criticized the report. It said the report does not fully recognize steps taken by the United States and Canada to reduce the risk of BSE.
Last week, there was an unrelated development affecting the beef industry. A federal jury found that America's largest meat processor restricted competition. The jury found that Tyson Fresh Meats unfairly controlled the price of live cattle and forced prices down.
The jury said Tyson should pay a group of independent cattle producers more than one-thousand-million dollars. The case in Alabama, called a class action, represents the interests of as many as thirty-thousand producers.
The action said Tyson made agreements with producers to create a supply of cattle. Tyson could then buy cows from this supply at a set price when market prices were high.
Tyson is appealing the decision. The company buys about one-third of the beef cattle in the United States. But it says it does not buy enough to set market prices.
This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Bob Doughty.