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Cattle imports not wanted

FT. COLLINS—The importation of cattle poses too many risks to U.S. producers and consumers, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President John Stencel and board member Charles Klaseen, Crawford, Colo., told a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hearing here today.

“Wide scale importation of foreign animals, such as commercial feeder cattle from Australia, is a bad idea,” said Stencel, who testified on behalf of National Farmers Union. “It jeopardizes the safety of our U.S. beef supply, the health of our domestic livestock, and the livelihood of U.S. livestock producers.”

The hearing by USDA’s Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service was held in response to an application made by the world’s largest cattle feeder Cactus Growers, Inc., of Amarillo, to import feeder cattle from Australia. The hearing was scheduled to discuss safety protocols for importing these and subsequent cattle. “Now is not the time to take shortcuts on health and safety protocols for imported cattle. In the wake of reports of foot and mouth disease and BSE in Europe and Japan, as well as continuing global reports of livestock disease outbreaks, the livestock industry is very concerned about the safety of their herd,” Stencel said.

Klaseen reinforced the need to protect food safety and national security: “As Homeland Security head Tom Rich said over the past weekend, America’s area of greatest vulnerability is food safety. Isn’t post September 11 a time to be tightening the security of our food, rather than opening up new avenues for bioterrorism?”

According to a recent Government Accounting Office report, just 2 percent of all food imports are actually inspected, a standard Klaseen would not like to see applied to livestock imports. He also voiced concern that USDA could allow livestock importers to do their own animal health inspections.

“If foreign cattle are allowed to be imported and are—as they should be—quarantined and their health certified by government agencies, who will shoulder the cost? Whether paid for by the government or the importers, ultimately, the cost will be paid by the American public through more federal spending or higher beef prices or both,” Klaseen said.