Ag chief warns ranchers about oil in pastures

by Walter Pierce

Evidence that livestock grazed in contaminated pastures could bar them from the slaughterhouse.

As higher than normal tides pushed in by Hurricane Alex begin to subside and an anticipated busier-than-normal tropical season gets into full swing, the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry is urging ranchers to be mindful of oil in pastures. Ag Commissioner Mike Strain released an advisory this week warning cattle producers that the federal Department of Agriculture will bar livestock from going to slaughter if there is "credible information that cattle have grazed on oil-contaminated pasture."

The USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service is conducting a risk assessment to determine possible health consequences for consumers who eat meat from animals exposed to crude oil. The feds hope to have that assessment report completed by mid July. Strain also cautions ranchers than because oil contamination is considered a man-made disaster, insurance coverage for losses may not be applicable.

Meanwhile, British Petroleum has established a toll-free number - (800) 440-0858 - for agricultural producers who claim losses due to the spill. Documentation such as receipts, photographs, trip sheets and other materials necessary for establishing a loss should be maintained.