December 27, 2003 Mad cow could cost cattlemen billions 2001 projections called for 300,000 cows to be slaughtered to stop disease's spread By The Associated Press WASHINGTON â No American official has estimated yet the financial fallout from the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, but the Bush administration told Congress in 2001 that the beef industry could lose $15 billion. Food-safety officials had earlier projected that as many as 300,000 cows could be destroyed if the disease spread as it did in Britain, a prospect diminished by safeguards implemented in response to the British experience with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. William D. Hueston, a former Agriculture Department official who directs the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota, said Friday he wouldnât be surprised if up to another two dozen infected cows are found in the United States. Gregg Doud, chief economist for the Denver-based National Cattlemenâs Beef Association, said Friday that U.S. producers stand to lose at least $6 billion from export losses and falling prices. âWeâve lost roughly 90 percent of our export market just in the last three days,â he said. However, Doud said the notion that as many as 300,000 cattle might have to be destroyed is unrealistic since there were far more cases of the disease in Britain and the government hid it from the public a long time. âThatâs what created the crisis in public confidence,â he said. âThis situation canât be compared to anything that occurred in the U.K.â Exports represent about $3.8 billion of the $40 billion-a-year beef industry in the United States, which also is the largest beef-consuming nation. Keith Collins, the Agriculture Departmentâs chief economist, said the price declines now in store for producers will not likely go below what they were a year ago. In March 2001, Bernard Schwetz, then the acting principal deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, briefed the House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee, drawing on what happened in the United Kingdom. Britainâs first-year economic losses were put at between $1.07 billion and $1.4 billion, according to a report by Congressâ General Accounting Office in 2002.