The National Cattlemen's Beef Association criticized a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to proceed with implementation of a new feed ban today (April 27), despite numerous objections from farmers, ranchers, states and members of Congress.

The new section of the regulations prohibits the use of high-risk cattle material in feed for all animal species.

"This decision is extremely disappointing," says Elizabeth Parker, chief veterinarian for NCBA. "By going ahead with implementation of this unnecessary ban, the FDA is ignoring the substantial costs and environmental burdens it imposes on America's cattle producers."

For years, the livestock industry has made it clear to FDA and the administration that this rule would exacerbate the problems producers are already facing regarding carcass disposal.

In fact, as early as December 2008, NCBA and producers across the country began voicing concerns about increased costs and disposal issues as many renderers discontinued their services in anticipation of this ban. "Unless FDA provides solutions for these problems, delaying the compliance date is an empty gesture," Parker says.

FDA is establishing a compliance date of Oct. 26, to give renderers additional time to comply with the new regulations and allow producers more time to identify appropriate methods of disposal. However, they have not provided any means to resolve the disposal issues created by the rule.

"This amounts to an unfunded mandate," Parker continues. "FDA has acknowledged that this rule creates tremendous disposal issues for producers, yet they have not identified any viable solutions to that problem. Moving forward with implementation without addressing these concerns is irresponsible."

In a pre-publication of the final rule, FDA said that, "the underlying bases for these new measures were fully considered through the notice and rulemaking process." Yet the FDA never completed a risk assessment to determine the costs and benefits of the new feed ban.

"The rule creates significant costs and environmental problems and has no demonstrable benefit," Parker explains. "Our existing feed ban has proven highly successful in limiting bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the U.S. herd."

Since 1997, the United States has prohibited ruminant feed from including parts of other ruminants. This proactive "ruminant to ruminant" feed ban, combined with other government and industry safeguards, is responsible for the extremely low-level risk of BSE in the United States. This was confirmed by years of robust USDA surveillance and reaffirmed by the U.S. "BSE Controlled Risk" designation by the OIE, the international animal health standard-setting body.