Mad Cow Disease Concerns Mississippi Cattle Farmers

South Mississippi cattle farmers are well aware of the devastating impact "mad cow disease" is having on the beef industry in Europe.

Farmers selling cattle at the livestock yard in Hattiesburg are now required to sign a letter certifying their animals have not eaten any feed containing animal by-products. Feed containing such by-products is believed to spread the disease.

Cattle farmers here are concerned about "mad cow", but they're also confident such precautions will help protect the beef industry in the United States.

The Southeast Mississippi Livestock Yard sells up to 2,500 cattle a week. Beef is big business for many Missisippi farmers. And although the impact of mad cow disease is half a world away, these farmers understand the potential problem.

"Yeah, it worries us here in Mississippi. Although most of the publicity that they're getting is over in Europe, we're doing what we can to try and keep it out of here," said cattle farmer, Jason Ellzey.

So far, industry regulators have kept the disease out of this country. One precaution affecting South Mississippi cattle producers is the new requirement they sign a letter certifying their cattle haven't been given any feed containing animal by-products, like bone meal.

"We're having all our producers certify that they're not feeding any illegal cattle feeds that would cause mad cow disease. We're very concerned about the mad cow disease or BSE. We don't have any in the United States and we hope we won't have any in the United States," said livestock barn manager, Dud Hughes.

Most cattle farmers have no problem signing the letter. After hearing about what's happening in Europe, they support whatever steps are necessary to ensure the safety of the cattle industry here.

Mad cow disease overseas has not had much impact on prices here. Not yet anyway. Some farmers say if the U.S. beef industry stays safe, producers could benefit.

Purvis cattle farmer, Joe Johnson, expects there may be a favorable impact in the U.S.

"I think this is really going to help our beef business down the road because of our hard core inspection line you might say, inspecting our meat and our food processing and stuff."

Cattle farmers in South Mississippi say beef produced in the U.S. is the safest in the world. And they're counting on it staying that way.