The loss of export markets alone due to BSE cost the U.S. beef industry $3.2 billion to $4.7 billion in 2004, a Kansas State University (KSU) study commissioned by the Kansas Department of Agriculture reports. The study, released in late April and entitled “The Economic Impact of BSE on the U.S. Beef Industry,” also concludes voluntary testing of cattle for BSE, which USDA has staunchly disallowed, could have been a paying proposition for the industry.

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The study conducted by KSU economists James Mintert, Sean Fox and Ted Schroeder, looked at regulator costs, losses and consumer reactions after the Dec. 23, 2003, discovery of BSE in a lone Washington state dairy cow. The researchers say it would have cost $640 million to test all cattle harvested in the U.S. in 2004, disregarding the costs of equipping processing plants for the testing.

But the recovery of just 25% of the Pacific Rim export markets by testing 75% of U.S. cattle harvested would have been a breakeven proposition economically. And if the U.S. could regain half those markets by testing just 25% of its cattle harvest, the U.S. beef industry would have been up by almost $750 million, making an additional $22.84/head.