Beef group cries foul

Beef group cries foul

The Agriculture Department's market news reporting system miscalculated wholesale beef prices for six weeks, the department said.

'The computer system was not tracking prices of boxed beef items when we detected the error on May 18,' USDA spokesman Jerry Redding said.

width="210">It was calculating prices lower than they should have been, said Chuck Lambert, chief economist at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

The system provides current wholesale price and demand information to farmers, producers and ranchers who market and distribute farm commodities. The error may have cost millions of dollars to those who relied on USDA for wholesale beef prices.

Agriculture's chief economist has set up a task force to identify the cause of the error, Redding said. A report is expected soon.

The department is filing reports manually until it can fix the system, Redding said, but declined to comment on the extent of the losses.

Meanwhile, association representatives, USDA officials and lawmakers met on May 21 to discuss the problem and a proposal for the department to release more information.

'We're happy with the outcome of the meeting,' he said. 'Good humans make mistakes, and bad things happen to good people.'

'P. Vasishtha

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