Whole states not affected if isolated cases emerge
By TIM HEARDEN
Cattle from California will move more freely throughout the country as a result of a change in federal rules governing states' bovine tuberculosis status.
An interim U.S. Department of Agriculture order ends the automatic downgrade of entire states when TB is discovered in one or two isolated herds.
Previously, beef producers throughout California had to meet additional standards after the state lost its TB-free status in 2007 because a few cows in the central San Joaquin Valley contracted the disease.
The rule relaxes federal restrictions elsewhere in the state, including testing that producers had to do before any kind of breeding stock could move from state to state. In addition, many other states have eased their own restrictions on California cattle, said Matt Byrne, the California Cattlemen's Association's executive vice president.
"It's actually really good news," Byrne said. "Even in the last four or five days ... Oregon, Washington and Nevada have all made their regulations for California cattle movement less restrictive.
"The goal is to get in place a situation where states are following the federal lead here," he said.
The two-year order comes as the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working on a conceptual plan to better manage bovine TB. The plan would include moving away from a state-by-state classification system and imposing testing requirements and movement restrictions within zones, according to a summary issued by APHIS in July.
The comprehensive plan would also add requirements to cattle imported from Mexico, enhance TB surveillance and enhance management of TB-infected herds by applying animal-identification standards.
The new zoning idea has drawn opposition from the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, which argues it would infringe on states' rights and weaken U.S. disease eradication efforts.
But the National Cattlemen's Beef Association supports APHIS' goal, which it argues will add needed flexibility to the federal order and enable producers not affected by TB to move animals between states.
Even under the federal order, herds that test positive will have to be quarantined from the rest and a herd health surveillance program has to be created, said Elizabeth Parker, the NCBA's chief veterinarian.
"It's just providing more flexibility for the state animal health office as well as producers for the (TB) negative herds that just got caught up in this old program," Parker said.
California Cattlemen's Association: http://www.calcattlemen.org/
National Cattlemen's Beef Association: http://beefusa.org/
USDA APHIS bovine tuberculosis page: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/hot_issues/bovine_tuberculosis/bovine_tb.shtml