The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Dec. 11 that it is proposing to update its brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis (TB) program regulations.
The changes outlined in the proposed rule were developed over several years of close collaboration between APHIS and its state, tribal and industry partners. They will allow the brucellosis and TB programs to be most effective at protecting animal health today and into the future.
Under the proposed rule, states and tribal nations would no longer be categorized by the disease prevalence in their state, and APHIS would no longer rely solely on whole-herd depopulation, the announcement said.
Instead, APHIS is proposing to establish standards for disease surveillance, epidemiological investigations and affected herd management. States and tribes would develop and implement an animal health plan that outlines how they will meet those standards. States and tribes would be categorized by whether they have an animal health plan, whether APHIS has approved this plan and whether they are following the activities outlined in their plan.
APHIS would also outline requirements for both interstate movements and imports of cattle, bison and captive cervids, as well as conditions for approving tests, testing laboratories and testers.
These proposed revisions are needed to address the many changes that these industries have undergone since the existing programs were developed many years ago. Herds today are much larger than they used to be, and federal funds available for indemnity payments are limited, APHIS said. Using depopulation as the only method of control is no longer feasible.
Instead, it is proven that a test-and-remove strategy is a cost effective alternative for controlling these diseases, and can be less costly to the American taxpayer, APHIS explained. In this strategy, infected herds are tested on a periodic basis and any animals that test positive are removed from the herd.
By using program compliance rather than disease prevalence to determine statuses in the proposed rule, states and tribes will no longer run the risk of status downgrades and state-wide restrictions and testing requirements when sporadic cases may appear.
Rather, they can focus their disease control efforts on specifically designated herds or areas. For example, wildlife populations in certain parts of the country carry these diseases and can reintroduce them into domestic herds of any species.
Brucellosis and bovine TB are contagious diseases caused by bacteria that affect cattle, bison and cervids (deer, elk), among others. They negatively affect animal health and animal production, and can negatively affect international trade.
This action is scheduled for publication in the Dec. 16 Federal Register. The proposed rule is currently available for review at www.aphis.usda.gov under Latest News. APHIS will be seeking public comment on this proposal. Consideration will be given to comments received within 90 days of publication in the Federal Register.