Starting today, Minnesota's status for bovine tuberculosis control is upgraded in all but a management area in northwest Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ruled Thursday.
The so-called split-state status will allow less restrictive standards for the movement of cattle in nearly all of Minnesota, while retaining strict standards and animal testing in the bovine TB management area that includes northwest Beltrami County, southwest Lake of the Woods County, eastern two-thirds of Roseau County and eastern third of Marshall County.
USDA approval of Minnesota's split-state status upgrades the formal classification to Modified Accredited Advanced, the second of five steps, in the rest of Minnesota while retaining the Modified Accredited classification, third of five, in the smaller management area.
An estimated 200,000 head of Minnesota cattle cross state lines each year.
"Split-state status is welcome news for the majority of Minnesota's cattle producers who have been dedicated partners in animal disease prevention," State Veterinarian Dr. Bill Hartmann, said in a statement. "The state remains committed to helping the producers in northwest Minnesota. We will continue to work with our state and federal partners and the producers within the Modified Accredited Zone to eliminate this disease."
The status will help the state target its resources where they are most needed, while also saving producers outside the affected area from the additional testing requirements that accompany MA status, he said. Herds in the MA Zone will still be subject to the more stringent shipping and testing restrictions.
The new federal classification was welcomed by the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, which lobbied this past legislation session for measures that would put the state in order to go with a split-state status.
"USDA's approval of split-state status is an important step for cattle producers in Minnesota," said Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap. "Split-state status also allows the Minnesota Board of Animal Health to concentrate resources to expedite the eradication of bovine TB within the TB Management Zone, while also saving producers outside of the affected area from additional testing requirements."
As a condition of the approval, the state must complete a round of targeted testing in the MAA zone within the next 12 months, Hartmann said. Producers selected to participate will be contacted soon. In addition to the testing, all farms in the MA Zone will undergo a wildlife evaluation and create a plan to prevent livestock from having contact with wildlife.
Cattle and bison producers located outside the state's MA Zone will still have some TB testing requirements if moving animals to another state, the state veterinarian said.
A complete list of the federal requirements is available on the state's TB Web site or by calling the bovine TB hotline at 1-877-MN TB FREE (668-2373). Many states have also implemented their own regulations for receiving cattle.
North Dakota will keep its import restrictions on Minnesota cattle despite the USDA ruling, according to an Associated Press report Thursday from Bismarck, N.D. That state's restrictions, put in place in February by the North Dakota Board of Animal Health, are aimed at protecting North Dakota's TB-Free status, which it has had for more than 30 years.
North Dakota "currently has a board order in place and that order will remain in effect," Susan Keller, North Dakota state veterinarian, told The Associated Press. The board doesn't have another meeting scheduled until Dec. 10.
"USDA approval is critical, but keep in mind that each state sets its own animal health regulations," said the Minnesota Farm Bureau's Paap. "Farm Bureau applauds the efforts the Minnesota Board of Animal Health is taking to address any concerns other states might have regarding Minnesota's plan to control and eradicate bovine TB and accept our split-state status."
Paap said bovine TB has been Farm Bureau's highest priority. "Farm Bureau will continue to work with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to eliminate bovine TB from cattle and the wild deer herd so that all of Minnesota can get back to bovine TB free status as soon as possible."
The 2008 Legislature, behind Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, approved measures allowing the voluntary buyout of cattle in the management zone at $500 an animal, and $75 a year for each animal until bovine TB is eradicated. It also set up the management zone, and requires herds within the zone to be fenced to prevent free-ranging deer from reaching feedlots.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources plans to test harvested deer this fall from the zone for bovine TB, and will continue efforts this winter to cull the deer herd in the affected area.
First discovered in 2005 in northwest Minnesota near Skime, bovine TB has since infected 11 cattle herds in the area. Many had their herds destroyed without compensation, although the new law does compensation new herds joining the program from the management zone.
As of the end of July, 45 herd buyout contracts had been signed by cattle producers in the area, according to the state Board of Animal Health.
Bovine TB is considered a remote health risk to humans, but in cattle causes severe coughing, fatigue and a debilitation in the animals.