The State Agriculture Department has started a quality systems assessment program for the state’s livestock producers. Arkansas will be the second state in the US to have the program. The voluntary program will identify the source and age of cattle. The identies are verified by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. International customers want beef from cattle younger than 20 months of age because of fear about mad-cow disease in older animals. Many countries banned U. S. beef after bovine spongiform encephalopathy was discovered in the US in 2003. “If we don’t have this program in place, we’re looking at a discount instead of a premium for cattle in our state,” Bell said. This quality systems assessment program will allow ranchers to sell beef at higher prices overseas to such countries as Japan. “We have got to track our cattle on age and source if we’re going to play in the international market,” Bell said. The program is voluntary, but participants will be subject to audits. Arkansas provides the beef industry with feeder cattle that are finished in other states feedyards. The state has about 1. 9 million head of cattle. Beef that can be verified by age and source is in demand internationally and also in supermarkets on the East and West coasts, said Claude “Tubby” Smith, executive director of the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association in Little Rock. The age and source verification will be a market boon “for all producers, both large and small,” he said. The cattle program will be administered by the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission. ...more
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