WASHINGTON — During testimony today at a House Agriculture Committee Hearing on food safety, Dr. Sam Ives, director of veterinary services and associate director of research at Cactus Feeders, Ltd., said the beef industry understands the intent of the bill [H.R. 2749] is to exempt livestock and poultry from this Food and Drug Administration-focused bill. However, industry is concerned the current bill language does not go far enough to ensure Congressional intent is not misinterpreted.

He testified on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s beef safety efforts. Based in Amarillo, Texas, Cactus Feeders runs nine large-scale cattle feedyards throughout Texas and Kansas, producing 1,000,000 head of cattle for slaughter annually.

Mr. Ives said since 1993, cattle producers have invested more than $27 million in beef-safety research, and the beef industry in total spends approximately $350 million each year on beef safety. "Everyone plays an important role in the safety of food," he added. "Cattle producers support the establishment of realistic food-safety objectives designed to protect public health to the maximum extent possible."

In addressing H.R. 2749, he iterated clear legislative language must be contained in the bill to ensure F.D.A. is not granted the authority to regulate livestock on-farm by mandating production standards for cattlemen across the country. "Live animals are not food until the point of processing, and we would like to see language that explicitly excludes livestock and poultry from the definition of ‘food’ under this bill and the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act," he said.

Mr. Ives also pointed out the bill grants F.D.A. redundant authority regarding quarantine of a geographical area where food presents serious adverse health consequences to humans or animals. "This new responsibility of F.D.A. is concerning as under the Animal Health Protection Act, U.S.D.A. can impose a federal quarantine for animal-health reasons when they deem necessary and work closely with state authorities. Under the Animal Health Protection Act, the government is mandated to pay indemnity to producers when the government ‘takes’ an animal; this provision does not require F.D.A. to pay indemnity."

Science is a critical component of the beef industry and through science-based improvements in animal genetics, management practices, nutrition and health, beef production per cow has increased from 400 lbs. of beef in the mid 1960s to 585 lbs. of beef in 2005, Mr. Ives said. "Cattlemen will continue to increase efficiencies based on science in order to produce high-quality beef with fewer resources being consumed," he added.