Mad Cow Disease and the USDA

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As disturbing as it is for the American consumer to shop for a string of Christmas lights in recent years and be unable to find any product not labeled “Made in China,” it is utterly alarming to hear reports that major defense contractors are increasingly unable to fulfill their commitments to the Department of Defense unless they are allowed to use imported electronics. But the situation becomes absolutely intolerable when the quality of Americas food supply is being degraded by imported products while the government deliberately keeps the people ignorant of such things under the auspices of “international free trade.” Such was the case with last months discovery of a BSE (Mad Cow) infected Holstein in the State of Washington.

Free Trade may yield some benefits if properly implemented. Certainly few proponents of liberty and capitalism desire their economy to be micromanaged, from the top down, by a burdensome government bureaucracy. But neither do they wish for American industry and agriculture to be defined and directed by foreign powers that are often unsympathetic, or even hostile, to the plight of Americans.


It seems reasonable to assume that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) should be chiefly interested with the protection of American interests, first and foremost being the safety of domestic food supplies, but also the livelihood of the suppliers, such as Americas cattle producers. Unfortunately, certain inexcusable actions on the part of the head of the USDA, Ann Veneman, indicate an indefensible willingness to subordinate American ranchers and feedlot owners to other interests, some of whom are foreign based.

Consider how the latest “Mad Cow” episode unfolded, and how it was manipulated to the benefit of foreign cattle producers, but simultaneously to the disadvantage of domestic producers. On Dec. 23, a presumptive determination was made that the Washington cow was BSE positive. A permanent tag in the cows ear conclusively identified it as being of Canadian origin. Since the cow had been in the country for less time that is required for incubation of the disease, the source of the disease is inarguably Canada. Yet, no mention of the cows Canadian origin was made by the USDA for four days, thus allowing sufficient time to cement the notion throughout the world that it was entirely an American problem.

The four-day delay dealt a devastating blow to American beef growers, whose herds have lost nearly a quarter of their value because several countries have subsequently stopped importing American beef. But, by distracting attention from the real source of infected beef, this move aided and abetted the multinational corporate interests that not-coincidentally overwhelmingly dominate and control meat packing in America. Furthermore, since that time, USDA has acquiesced to the supposition that BSE is a North American problem, essentially taking heat off of Canada, from whom both this, and the previous BSE infected cow can be traced.

If accusations of collusion by the USDA seem overly harsh, a review of their actions in recent months should dispel any doubts. To the detriment of both producers and consumers, the USDA steadfastly opposes all efforts to implement “Country of Origin Labeling” on beef sold to the American people. Its chief justification for this opposition is that such labeling will somehow add prohibitive costs to the price of beef.

Prohibitive costs? Any brief examination of even a bag of peanuts reveals the amount of federally required nutritional labeling in order to legally market so inconsequential of a product in this country. Is it even conceivable that an entirely reasonable government regulation, identifying the originating country in which the beef was grown, is excessively burdensome for the meat packers, and thus an unnecessary luxury for the American consumer? Or is it far more likely that those packers want to deliberately keep Americans in the dark because they know how significantly such information will influence the buying practices of people who increasingly hold food safety as a major concern for their loved ones?

Mexico, Brazil, and Canada already have officials in place within their respective governments to protect their agricultural interests. Americans, from the rancher and feedlot owner, to the family gathering for its Sunday roast or backyard barbeque of hamburgers on the grill, likewise need someone in their government with the courage and principle to look out for their interests. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, with her divided loyalties, has clearly failed in this capacity. It is past time for her to go.

”’Christopher G. Adamo is a free-lance writer who lives in southeastern Wyoming with his wife and sons. He has been involved in grassroots political activity for many years. Chris was the editor of the Wyoming Christian from 1994 to 1996, and his columns can be seen at:”’ and ”’He can be reached via email at:”’

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