Second Packer Wants To
Test All Its Cattle For BSE

By Foss Farrar
The Arkansas City Traveler

Another small meat packer besides Creekstone Farms Premium Beef has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do 100 percent testing of the cattle it processes for mad cow disease.
The Gateway Beef Cooperative in Overland, Mo., a St. Louis suburb, has followed the lead of Creekstone, and requested private testing to reopen foreign markets for American beef.
Robbie Meyer, president of the cooperative, wrote a letter dated April 30 to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman asking for permission to test. The USDA has not yet responded, a cooperative spokeswoman said today.
Meanwhile, Kansas State Rep. Joe Shriver, D-Arkansas City, is busy today trying to arrange a conference call between Bill Fielding, Creekstone's chief operating officer in Ark City, and members of the House Agriculture Committee.
Shriver has introduced a House resolution supporting Creekstone. The agriculture committee met Monday on the resolution, but no vote was taken.
"I talked with Chairman (Dan) Johnson the other day and he wants to talk with Creekstone and then with other packers in the industry," Shriver said. "We're trying to arrange an ITV link-up between an office in Topeka and the ITV room at Cowley College."
Fielding wasn't immediately available this morning to comment on the proposed teleconference.
Creekstone is losing an estimated $200,000 a day in sales to Japan, Shriver said, and the U.S. beef industry as a whole is losing and estimated $1.5 billion.
The State Legislature is winding up its session, and Shriver acknowledged today that time may be running short on getting the Creekstone resolution passed.
"There is a stalemate on the education funding ideas," he said. "But we are in our 84th day, and hopefully we'll get that resolved before the 90th day. We are in the 11th hour, and some minutes."
Tricia Falter, communications director for the Missouri Farmers Union, said Gateway had built a $250,000 cutting room to start processing products for the Japan market. A few days later, last December, a case of mad cow was discovered in Washington state and Japan closed its borders to U.S. beef.
"We were so close," Falter said. "We had our order placed with Japan, and we were in-place to be a hormone-free producer for European Union markets."
Ironically, the USDA representative working with Gateway to establish a verified hormone-free program was reassigned to BSE testing (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow).
"The USDA is actively involved in helping us get these marketing tools, and then suddenly they are shutting us down from doing BSE testing," she said. "It's kind of disheartening."
Falter said Gateway had watched closely as Creekstone tried to get permission from the USDA to test for mad cow.
"We wanted to be on record asking for permission for the same thing," she said. "As more of us small independent packers stick together, then sooner or later the USDA will have to listen."
"Creekstone is forging the way and making it easier for us," she added. "We think it's great trying to back them up."
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