Mad cow worries U.S. beef farmers

U.S. officials insist the beef supply is safe and will allow Canadian imports.

Published: Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 1:06 a.m.
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Snow-covered Black Angus cows are shown in a ranch outside the southern Alberta city of Medicine Hat on Dec. 30, 2004.

The Associated Press
LUBBOCK, Texas - Benny Montague has raised cattle in West Texas for 35 years and believes he knows what's best for the nation's beef industry.
With this weekend's confirmed case of mad cow disease in Canada, Montague and others in the nation's leading beef-producing state said the government is acting too hastily in lifting a ban on importing live cattle from the country. The ban - lifted last week - has been in place since the first confirmed case of the disease in Canada was found in May 2003.
"We don't need any more mad cows over here," Montague said. "I think it's crazy since they found one to open it back up."
Not everyone agreed with Montague, however.
"The bottom line is that the beef supply is safe," said Jan Lyons, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
She said the animal, an older dairy cow born in 1996, posed no health threat because of procedures in place to keep potentially infected cows out of the food chain.
The rules on beef imports stipulate that imported cows must be younger than 30 months of age.
Concerns about mad cow have been heightened since the May 2003 discovery in Canada. The United States closed the border with Canada following that case, but has slowly been easing the restrictions, including last week's lifting of the ban on live cattle under 30 months old.
The Bush administration said it would stand by the decision. But Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., says he has written Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman saying she should immediately suspend the rule.
This country's first confirmed mad cow case, in Washington state in December 2003, turned out to be a Canadian-born Holstein. It prompted several countries, Japan being the largest, to ban U.S. beef.
Gene Harris, owner of a small, family-operated ranch in Killdeer, N.D., said the United States should import beef from countries that have taken adequate steps to ensure human and herd safety.
"In the short term it will have some negative effects to the market, but in the long term, re-establishing trade will allow us to establish a framework to trade with Canada and other minimal-risk countries," he said.

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