Johanns Plans BSE Roundtable to Get the Facts Out about Border Situation

BSE roundtable to help educate beef industry on the effects of the North American border closure.

The beef industry is divided on mainly one issue--whether live cattle trade should be resumed with Canada.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns wants to bring to light the "cold hard facts about the beef industry." On Tuesday Johanns announced plans for a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) roundtable discussion entitled, "The Safety of North American Beef and the Economic Effect of BSE on the U.S. Beef Industry."

The roundtable discussion will be open to the public and held on Thursday, June 9, from 9:30-2:30 at the Andrew Boss Laboratory, University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus, in St. Paul, Minn. Potential participants will receive invitations. The event will bring together USDA experts, producers, packers, other industry groups and academia to discuss the science of BSE and the economic impacts on the U.S. beef industry.

In a news conference announcing the roundtable, Johanns explains that it is the little guy that is being hurt in the system that unfortunately now rests in the hands of the court. During the wait, he says it is necessary to educate the beef industry about the repercussions of the North American beef industry shifting north unless changes are made.

Johanns notes that data illustrating the success of USDA's enhanced BSE surveillance program will be part of the roundtable discussion. The enhanced surveillance program targets the population of animals in which BSE is most likely to be detected, including non-ambulatory or downer animals, animals exhibiting signs of a central nervous system disorder or any other signs that could be consistent with BSE and animals that die from unknown causes. More than 350,000 animals have been tested and all have been negative.

The surveillance testing program provides statistical power for the safety of U.S. beef. "Now it is time to put into perspective for producers, processors, and decision-makers the facts and the future implications of the course we are following."

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