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Published: Sunday, 6/17/2001

Help for cattle farmers

American cattle farmers should get congressional support for the funding they need to identify and destroy cattle infected with a disease that could be similar to one that people suffer.

The dairy industry is paying close attention to the possibility that there could be a connection between Johne's disease, which infects livestock, and Crohn's disease, a chronic bowel disease that afflicts more than a half million people. As scientists continue to debate the topic and to do research, they already know that the bacteria that cause Johne's have also been identified in many patients who have Crohn's.

That, and the fact that one in every five herds is believed to be infected with Johne's, has prompted responsible action from the dairy industry.

The National Milk Producers Federation wants money from Congress so it can identify and destroy infected cattle. It is funding that Congress cannot afford to withhold. The funding will help the industry maintain consumer confidence as it works to eliminate the problem and keep dairy products safe.

Johne's has already cost the dairy industry about $200 million a year, although milk producers don't believe there is a human health concern. However, they understand that they cannot take the issue lightly. Even if it's not a public health issue, it's a worry for cattle farmers.

Mad cow and foot-and-mouth disease have ravaged European cattle farms. American cattle farmers, of course, don't want to face the same despair as their European counterparts. That's why the financial help from Congress is so important.

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