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North Dakota drops TB testing regulation

The state of North Dakota on this week dropped additional testing requirements for most cattle entering that state from Minnesota and Montana.

The more stringent testing remains in effect for cattle being brought into North Dakota from the Modified Accredited zone in Beltrami and Roseau counties.

The North Dakota Board of Animal Health issued its ruling Wednesday to rescind its order, now meaning that beef cattle, camelids and goats from most areas of Minnesota will no longer be tested for tuberculosis prior to being brought into North Dakota.

The board will continue to require a certificate of veterinary inspection, an import permit number and official identification for animals from the rest of Minnesota outside of northwest Minnesota. TB testing requirements for rodeo and dairy cattle from all states are still in place.

"The board made its decision based on current science and on the surveillance and management actions that have been taken to minimize the risk of the movement of tuberculosis," State Veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller said in a statement. "We need to recognize proactive and effective actions that other states have taken to prevent the movement of disease out of their states as well as within their states."

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehning said, "Recognizing the work that has been accomplished over the past few years by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, including the depopulation of a large number of cattle and extensive wildlife surveillance, I believe that our board's action is justified."

The action comes after a federal order was issued in April by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to suspend enforcement if a portion of the bovine tuberculosis regulations in the United States. As a result, many states have reduced their TB testing requirements for cattle moving out of Minnesota's Modified Accredited Advanced Zone.

Under the federal order, the USDA will have the authority to determine whether or not to downgrade a state's TB status based on a scientific analysis of risk. Previously, if two or more infected cattle herds that were not epidemiologically connected were found in a TB-Free state, that state would automatically lose their free status and be downgraded to Modified Accredited Advanced. Under the new federal order, the USDA would have the option to downgrade the state's status depending on the risk of disease transmission as well as the efforts put forward by the state to eradicate the disease and conduct surveillance testing.

"This is a significant step toward restructuring the federal TB program and making informed decisions based on scientific risk instead of arbitrary standards," said Minnesota Bovine TB Coordinator Joe Martin. "The federal order has the potential to save states as well as cattle producers thousands of dollars in testing costs. We applaud the USDA for their work to expedite this federal order."

The federal order will also suspend the federal rule requiring breeding cattle to be TB tested before leaving a Modified Accredited Advanced Zone. However, certain states may chose to maintain the TB test requirement for cattle being imported from Minnesota.

South Dakota and Nebraska -- and now North Dakota -- say they will adopt the new federal order.

Last year, USDA announced that it would be revising the national TB program to take a new approach to managing the disease. The agency is currently working on writing new rules, which will then be submitted for review and a public comment period. The federal order is considered by the USDA to be an interim measure which will be in place until the new rules are issued.

Northwest Minnesota has been under TB testing restrictions since TB was discovered in several cattle herds, believed to be transmitted from free-ranging white-tailed deer.

The Minnesota Legislature enacted laws to buy out affected herds and to provide fencing for remaining cattle herds. Also, efforts have been ongoing to cull deer herds in the area.