Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
March 2008 Since bovine tuberculosis (TB) was discovered in a northwest Minnesota beef cattle herd, animal health officials have found a total of 11 infected beef cattle herds in Roseau and Beltrami counties. As each additional infected herd is found, it becomes more apparent that this problem will not go away easily or quickly. It is frustrating for northwestern Minnesota producers to face this new obstacle to profitability, and it is frustrating for producers hundreds of miles away in southern Minnesota to know they will face new movement restrictions and testing requirements simply because they operate in the same state. It is hard to explain to these men and women why federal regulations consider their animals a greater risk than those of producers in neighboring states who may be much closer to the affected counties. Nevertheless, this is the hand Minnesota has been dealt. Now we have to decide how we're going to play it, and how we're going to remain in the game. Cattle production in northwestern Minnesota is important for our state economy. New figures show cattle production in the 14-county region generates $141 million in economic activity and supports more than 2,200 jobs. We will not turn our back on this vital region. In fact, I am confident we will defeat this disease if we continue to work together. Early indications are that Minnesotans are coming together to meet the challenge. At a recent series of public meetings organized by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BAH), state officials worked with producer organizations, auction barns and others to share information - good and not so good - with producers and others. First, the not so good news: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to soon downgrade Minnesota's TB status. When this change becomes official, Minnesota producers will have to adhere to stricter federal and state testing requirements when shipping cattle or bison. USDA will require all breeding animals be tested for bovine TB within 60 days prior to shipment and a whole herd test within the previous 12 months. All feeder animals must have a TB test prior to movement. More details can be found by visiting BAH Web site at
www.bah.state.mn.us or by calling the state's TB hotline at (877) MN-TB-FREE. Now, the good news: BAH, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and other partners are working hard to help lessen the economic blow for Minnesota producers. For example: BAH is negotiating with USDA to receive split-state status, which would allow the majority of the state to return to the less restrictive "MAA" status; MDA is pursuing an agreement with the federal authorities to free most Minnesota dairy producers from the most costly testing requirements; The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is working to eliminate the disease from wild deer, to ensure that deer do not serve as a "reservoir" for the disease; and producers can claim a state tax credit that reimburses them for half of the cost they incur for TB testing. More details are available from the Minnesota Department of Revenue at www.revenue.state.mn.us. Bovine TB was nearly eliminated in the U.S. before flaring up again in recent years. I understand it will not be easy, but we've defeated this disease in the past and I am confident we will do it again. In the meantime, we will do all we can to help our cattle industry adapt and overcome this challenge.