By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo
For over a century, Idaho cattle families have been providing high-quality beef products to consumers at home and, in recent decades, markets abroad. With the exception of a few large operations in southern Idaho, most of those in the Idaho livestock industry are small, independently-owned ranch or feed lot operations. Cattle are raised in every county in the state-in Idaho, cattle outnumber people. The recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Class II recall of beef from a processing plant in California has brought the U.S. beef industry into the spotlight. The handling of the animals at the California plant was deplorable. Furthermore, occurrences like these make it difficult for the vast majority of cattle farmers and ranchers in Idaho and other states who strictly adhere to regulations designed to preserve food safety.
The decision to issue a recall was the right one. Done out of precaution (a Class II recall is due to a remote probability that the beef being recalled would cause adverse health effects if consumed), this type of recall is just one of the many safeguards that the USDA employs to prevent food-borne disease. There are in-plant procedures as well as prohibitions against non-ambulatory cattle in the food supply. All of these regulations and procedures are in place for many reasons. Safety of the food supply is obvious and paramount. Other considerations include retention of and improved access to foreign markets. As a member of both the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, the marketability of Idaho beef and U.S. beef as a whole is very important to me. U.S. beef has a strong reputation in world markets as a premier food product. We cannot afford to let this reputation be compromised by the actions of a few violators.
I'm confident that the USDA and the industry will continue their commitment to following strict government safeguards and science-based food safety practices. Raising cattle has been a matter of immense pride for many families for multiple generations, not to mention the economy and individual livelihoods. Idaho cattlemen have a long tradition of respect for their animals and the mission of providing healthy and safe beef to consumers. Most beef cows in Idaho are raised on open pasture and, with over two-thirds of Idaho's land owned by the state or the federal government, most cattle spend at least part of their lives on public rangeland. Idaho cattle farmers and ranchers have invested much of their own money in safety research and education, developing extensive best practices for beef processing and safety. In 2007, the beef/livestock industry comprised 21 percent of Idaho total agriculture industry and represents billions of dollars in our state's economy.
Idaho's beef industry is a vibrant source of income for many families and helps define many Idaho communities. I will continue to support beef producers and eat Idaho beef with pride.
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