R-CALF USA on Dec. 4, 2009, filed formal comments with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the agency's proposal to revamp the United States' bovine tuberculosis (TB) program, a program that has significantly reduced the prevalence of TB in U.S. livestock since 1917.
The group praised USDA's proposals to impose new restrictions on the importation of cattle from Mexico, enhance efforts to mitigate TB risks with wildlife, develop new diagnostic tests and develop alternative strategies for whole-herd depopulation. However, the group strenuously objected to USDA's plan to adopt the internationally-devised "zoning" plan that would ignore the geopolitical boundaries of states. R-CALFUSA believes such a proposal would infringe upon the sovereign rights of the 50 states and weaken U.S. disease eradication efforts. In addition, the group objected to USDA's plans to adopt a mandatory national animal identification system (NAIS) and its plans to exclude the public from agency decision-making by granting USDA authority to take actions without providing the public with notice and opportunity for comment, as required under USDA rule-making responsibilities.
"We are pleased USDA has responded favorably to our member policy by proposing to increase TB testing of Mexican cattle imports," said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who also chairs the group's animal health committee. "It's been known for several years that 75 percent of TB-infected cattle detected at U.S. slaughtering plants originate from Mexico. And, while USDA plans to require certain classes of Mexican cattle to be quarantined upon entering the U.S., we will continue working to expand this to include all Mexican cattle until Mexico takes steps to eradicate this dangerous human and animal disease in its native cattle herd."
In addition, the group's comments called for TB restrictions on Canadian cattle and noted that the U.S. imported two TB-positive heifers from the Canadian province of British Columbia in 2008.