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Bovine TB outlook improves for NW Minnesota

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The outlook for bovine tuberculosis in northwest Minnesota is improving, according to Dr. Bill Hartmann, state veterinarian who with Board of Animal Health representatives spoke to the Senate Agriculture and Veterans Affairs Committee this month.

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Bovine tuberculosis is a disease that has been affecting Minnesota livestock farmers since it was initially discovered in 2005, and the BAH said the quick and aggressive actions taken to address the outbreak are having positive results in Minnesota.

According to BAH officials, they are hopeful that if efforts continue and negative test results continue, the portion of Minnesota still listed as Modified Accredited could be upgraded one level, to Modified Accredited Advanced, and the rest of the state could soon become completely bovine TB-free.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture review team was in Minnesota last November to evaluate the state's bovine TB response program. The team gave the state a very positive review, signaling we are on the right path toward eradication.

To follow up on that review, the BAH now is completing herd inventories for all cattle herds in the MA zone during 2010. By gaining a complete inventory of cattle in the region, we can ensure that all animals in the zone are accounted for and have undergone TB testing. Completing these inventories is critical for Minnesota to maintain the Split State Status and to gain the status upgrades we hope for in the near future.

There was one deer in the zone that tested positive for bovine TB last fall. After inquiring about the development, the BAH indicated they were not overly concerned with these test results. The affected deer was born in 2006 and was the only positive result discovered among thousands of tests performed last fall.

Had the results been found in a younger deer population, or were more widely distributed, there would be more concern for the progression of the disease. Overall, the number of deer testing positive has steadily declined over the last three years, even with increasing surveillance efforts and testing. The BAH and Department of Natural Resources said they will continue current efforts of closely monitoring the population.

Bovine TB has had negative effects in other states. Michigan has been fighting the problem for 20 years at a cost of more than $100 million. For Minnesota to look to be on track to improving its status and, potentially, reaching TB-free status in the near future speaks volumes about the efforts we took to address the disease so quickly.

It's also a testament to the farmers, producers and landowners in our area, who have worked closely with state officials to turn this problem around. It's not an easy thing to ask the livestock industry to adopt so many new regulations, but without that cooperation, we'd be much further behind on our goals.

The BAH has promised to provide more updated information to the Senate as it becomes available this spring. There are other tests and monitoring efforts occurring right now, and we hope to learn the outcomes of those efforts as soon as it's available.

As a reminder for those preparing 2009 income taxes, producers that pay to test their cattle for bovine TB are eligible to receive a tax credit for 50 percent of the testing-related expenses, including veterinarian fees, labor expenses and equipment rental fees. Corporate and S-corporation taxpayers are eligible for a 25 percent credit.

More information may be found on the Department of Revenue's Web site at www.taxes.state.mn.us by clicking on Individual Income Tax and Credits, Subtractions and Additions.

Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.

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