Should USDA Further Relax US BSE Protections?


The following is a press release from R-CALF USA:

Billings, Mont. – On March 16, 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed a new rule that would make sweeping changes to U.S. import policies that were put in place to protect against the introduction and spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease). One of the significant changes in the proposed rule is the elimination of the current requirement that beef imported from a BSE-affected country must be derived from cattle that were subject to an effective ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban.

“We were astounded that USDA would propose to further weaken our already weakened BSE protections and we joined with 30 other organizations to formally seek a 60-day extension of the public comment period for USDA’s proposed rule. We need more time than was allotted by USDA to thoroughly research the assumptions underpinning its proposal,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

The draft letter was still being circulated for organizational signatures when, last Tuesday, USDA announced that it had detected a California cow with “atypical” BSE.

In response to USDA’s announcement, the letter, now signed by 31 organizations, was immediately sent to USDA and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

In support of their request for an extension of time to file public comments, the group’s letter stated in part:

“APHIS proposes to open United States’ borders to cattle from countries that have had thousands of cases of BSE, and where new BSE cases continue to be found. . . APHIS also proposes to drop important measures that have been used to protect U.S. consumers from these imported cattle and meat products (which have a much higher chance of being infected with BSE than U.S.-raised cattle), and intends to rely almost exclusively on slaughtering techniques, particularly the removal of specified risk materials (SRMs), which we know on occasion is not employed fully or effectively, and which has not been practiced long enough to determine whether it is indeed the panacea APHIS assumes, given the long gestation time of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) in humans.”

The group’s letter also pointed out that USDA appears to be backpedaling regarding what is necessary to protect both human health and animal health:

“In APHIS’ previous BSE-related rulemakings, and in the agency’s defense of the three court-ordered injunctions awarded against it, APHIS consistently claimed that both animal and human health were protected not by any one or two mitigation measures working independently, but rather, by all the mitigation measures working in series and in parallel to reduce risk to what the agency claims is a negligible level. . . However, even though APHIS used this very argument that risk is rendered negligible because of the multiplicative risk-reduction effect of its entire suite of mitigation measures . . . the agency is now claiming that the entire suite of measures are no longer necessary to protect human health. Indeed, the Proposed Rule intends to remove the requirement in current regulations that beef imported from Canada be derived from animals that were subject to a ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban.

“This is a sweeping change to the United States’ current BSE protection standards and we need much longer than a 60-day comment period to adequately research APHIS’ proposal and provide thoughtful, reasoned comments that will benefit the agency’s rulemaking.”

“USDA is knowingly increasing the risk to the United States that BSE will be introduced and spread,” Bullard said adding, “In its earlier rulemaking to allow higher-risk cattle and beef into the U.S., the agency’s own risk modeling estimated the U.S. would import between 19 and 105 BSE-infected cattle, which, in turn, would produce BSE infection in 2 to 75 U.S.-born cattle. USDA thinks this is acceptable. We do not.”

The organizations requesting an extension include:

American Agriculture Movement, American Grassfed Association, Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Assoc., Cattle Producers of Washington, Citizens for Private Property Rights, Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association, Concerned Citizens of the Yakama Reservation, Dakota Resource Council, Dakota Rural Action, Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance, Food & Water Watch, Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND), Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, International Texas Longhorn Assn., Kansas Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Farmers Union, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Missouri’s Best Beef Co-Operative, National Association of Farm Animal Welfare, National Family Farm Coalition, Nevada Live Stock Association, Oregon Livestock Producers Association, Oregon Rural Action, Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), Peach Bottom Concerned Citizens Group, Progressive Agriculture Organization, R-CALF USA, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, The Center For Food Safety, The CJD Foundation, Western Organization of Resource Councils.


# # #


R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit  or, call 406-252-2516.  

Source:  R-CALF USA

Posted by Haylie Shipp

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x