July 20, 2004

July 20, 2004

It is time for USDA to move quickly and decisively and change their flawed reporting procedure for BSE. We have had 2 false positives this month. They received headline attention spooking the cattle market, undercutting consumer confidence, and hurting our chances of opening up the Japanese market to our beef. Both of the warnings have proven to be false. I'm glad they were. Although the immediate test was positive, it is also true that when USDA gets a positive on the first test that positive is usually reversed with the more comprehensive test.

Why cry fire in a crowded theatre.

Mad cow just seems to make the headlines even though no one (No One) in the U.S. is going to contract mad cow disease. It's just not going to happen. BSE is an animal health issue; not a human health issue. Still there are some people especially in other countries that are scared to death at the very mention of the word.

I realize that USDA is in a no win situation. All the critics are screaming for transparency but announcing these inconclusive results and then reversing them only serves to undermine consumer confidence in our testing.

USDA may be able to find some middle ground. If an animal tests positive, USDA will require a second quickie test on that animal. If they get 2 positives tests on that same animal, then they will announce their findings. That would be a step in the right direction.

Until next week. I am John Block from Washington.