Legislators Back Beef

One of few ag bills passed offers moral support. Tom J. Bechman

Published on: Mar 15, 2004

To say that the Indiana General Assembly left a lot of issues on the table, especially as relates to agriculture, might be the understatement of the year. Many key ag-related bills never even made it to the house or senate chamber. Some never even got past the chairman of a committee to a hearing by a full committee.

That included bills like the drinking water bill that would have diverted sales tax on bottled drinking water to the Clean Water Indiana fund. Bill Friend, R, Macy, introduced and backed the bill, but it never made it to he house chamber.

One bill that Friend and Dale Grubb, D, Covington, did get to the chamber and actually through the chamber really wasn't a bill at all. It was a resolution that echoed support for Indiana's beef industry after a tough winter, plagued by ghosts of the BSE mad cow scare. That scare started when word came out just before Christmas that a dairy cow in Washington was diagnosed, after slaughter, with mad cow disease.

As it turns out, it was an isolated case, being the first and only BSE case diagnosed in the U.S. so far. A cow was diagnosed in Canada last summer, and, in fact, investigators traced this Washington cow back to Canada as well. Feedstuffs were quickly ruled out as a possible cause due to meticulous recordkeeping and super-efficient software kept by the feed manufacturing company. Feed is often implicated since one of the key ways the disease is thought to spread is through feed contaminated with the brain tissue or spinal fluids of an animal infected with BSE.

"We just wanted to show our support for the dairy and beef industries in our state," Friend explained. "It was something we could do as a body to recognize how important these industries are to the economy in Indiana."

Indeed, data gathered by Friend and Grubb claim there are 19,000 cattle operations in Indiana, with more than 860,000 beef and dairy cows currently in the state. They also discovered that 145,000 dairy cows produce 2.6 billion pounds of milk each year, worth $320 million.

Even veal, the selling of young calves for slaughter, is a significant business in Indiana. Their numbers show that Indiana ranks third natio�ally in veal production. It's a $49 million dollar a year business.