2009-04-02 / Local & State

Lawmakers Ask For Delay Of New Mad Cow Rule

WASHINGTON (AP) - Thirty members of Congress are calling for a delay on new rules that are intended to keep mad-cow disease out of the food supply but have created problems in disposing of dead cattle.

A spokesman for the Nebraska congressman leading the charge said Thursday the rules could make it more difficult to dispose of dead livestock.

Starting April 27, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration rule would require livestock renderers and animal feed manufacturers to remove the brain and spinal cord from cows 30 months and older. The rule is designed to keep central nervous system tissue from dead cattle out of animal feed because it can cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

In a letter addressed to FDA Acting Commissioner Frank Torti, the House lawmakers write that they understand the motivations behind the regulation but are worried about increased disposal costs. The letter suggests looking to European standards in handling prohibited materials while processing animals or developing a carcass disposal plan.

"A more complete analysis will allow the affected industries sufficient time to develop and implement cost effective means to comply with the final regulation,'' the letter states.

An FDA spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment last Thursday. But the federal agency has said the new regulation is necessary because mad cow disease has been linked to more than 200 human deaths worldwide - though none involved U.S. beef.

Nationwide, 54 billion pounds of animal parts are rendered each year. Only a small portion of that - an estimated 4-5 billion pounds - comes from animals that die on farms.

Critics of the FDA rule say that under the new restrictions, many livestock producers would be hard-pressed to find renderers willing to accept dead cattle. Those that do would pay more, up from about $20 per animal now to more than $100.

The federal rule has led to fears that dead cattle and dairy cows could be left rotting on farms, dragged into creeks or that properly buried animals could eventually become concentrated enough to contaminate drinking water.

Months before the federal rule took effect, an animal feed company in Blunt's southwest Missouri congressional district cited the anticipated extra costs of complying with the FDA rule for shutting down.

The Halfway Packing Co. was the last Missouri company willing to pick up dead livestock from farmers' pastures. The company's owner estimated that the trucks covered more than 1,000 miles per day across 20 counties in the heart of the state's cattle country.

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