Stewart raises Angus bulls on his Creekstone farm and processes 300,000 animals per year. Twenty-five percent of the beef was to go to Asia until last December, and America's first reported case of mad cow disease.
"Everything closes," Stewart said. "International trade stops. It was a frightening day."
More than 50 nations, including Japan, banned American beef. Stewart says his business is losing $80,000 a day.
The Japanese, who test every animal for mad cow disease, will not allow American beef imports again until the U.S. cattle industry does the same.
In order to resume selling beef in Asia, Stewart made an offer: He would test every animal that came through his facility for mad cow disease, and he would pay the cost of having the government oversee the tests.
But the U.S. Department of Agriculture refused.
"They've told us if we attempt to buy those test kits and use them, they are going to put me in jail," Stewart said.
The government has never allowed private testing. And even though test kits are available, they are not licensed.
The USDA also argues that since most animals are slaughtered at an age before mad cow disease becomes a concern, Stewart's offer to test all animals is simply unnecessary.
"There is no scientific basis for doing this kind of testing," said Ron deHaven of the USDA. "But in fact, by opening the door to that kind of testing, we would be assuming on behalf of the consumers a tremendous cost."
The USDA estimates testing all cattle could cost $1 billion. The rest of the cattle industry, which could be forced by competition to test as well, is siding with the government.
"We're not going to support doing anything that would mislead consumers that beef is safer because of testing," said Gary Weber of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.