Last Friday, USDA filed a response in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia opposing Creekstone Farms' lawsuit seeking permission to voluntarily test cattle they slaughter for BSE. In its response, USDA argued that (1) Creekstone Farms was not harmed by USDA's prohibition on voluntary testing, despite the fact that Creekstone Farms has lost customers as a result of the USDA ban; and (2) a nearly-100 year old statute to stop the sale of bogus hog cholera serums provides USDA with the legal authority to ban private BSE testing.

Creekstone says USDA admits for the first time that one of its primary reasons for denying the company's right to test is to prevent other beef producers from having to incur increased costs of conducting BSE testing, which might otherwise be necessary to remain competitive if private BSE testing were permitted.

Creekstone strongly believes private testing should be strictly voluntarily and USDA's attempt to insulate select companies from competition over BSE-tested beef undermines the hard work of companies like Creekstone. The company also says it would be able to sell much more beef at higher prices to its customers if it were able to test for BSE, therefore rendering baseless USDA's argument that this lawsuit is moot.
-- Clint Peck