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Nebraska Cattle Feeder Sues Agriculture Secretary

June 14, 1994

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ A Nebraska cattle feeder filed a $25 million federal lawsuit Tuesday against U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy and the Agriculture Department.

Robert Gottsch Sr. of Elkhorn filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Omaha, claiming that Espy has been helping the nation’s largest poultry processor, Tyson Foods of Arkansas, at the expense of cattle feeders.

The lawsuit comes as Espy faces allegations in Washington that he accepted free travel, lodging and tickets to sporting events from Tyson Foods.

The suit charges that the regulations for beef plants are much stricter than those for poultry plants.

But Agriculture Department spokesman Steve Kinsella said the new beef-plant rules, implemented in December 1993, followed a 1992 outbreak of E. coli illnesses in Washington state. About 600 people became ill and four children died.

The new rules enforce zero tolerance, meaning no contamination of raw meat is allowed. The Agriculture Department has been working to establish a policy for poultry.

The lawsuit also says the nation’s livestock industry lost between $750 million and $1.5 billion because of a steep decline in cattle prices this year.

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