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USDA slows brucellosis zoning process

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Powell — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided to postpone publication of its National Brucellosis Elimination Zone (NBEZ) proposal and is instead planning a meeting with interested stakeholders.
    “This proposal is not going to be in the Federal Register right now,” said Dr. Jerry Diemer of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to members of the Wyoming Legislature’s Interim Ag Committee. The committee met in Powell May 13-14.
    Stressing that NBEZ is a “proposal,” Diemer announced plans to meet with stakeholders in Idaho Falls, Idaho on June 18. Wyoming State Veterinarian Walter Cook will be a participant in that meeting. Wyoming’s agricultural organizations, as of mid-May, had not been notified of the gathering.
    First released in November 2008 the NBEZ document set out an ambitious timeline of stakeholder meetings to take place December 2008. Six months down the road stakeholders have been largely left out of the process. Diemer attributed the fumbled timeline to the change in administration.
    NBEZ would allow the United States to be declared brucellosis-free in a regionalization system allowed by the OIE, the world organization for animal health. Certain restrictions would apply to those Montana, Idaho and Wyoming ranches within the designated area of risk where wildlife continues to carry brucellosis.
    During the late April meeting of the Governor’s Brucellosis Task Force APHIS representatives said their proposal had been withdrawn from their website. At the recent legislative meeting in Powell, however, Diemer offered copies of NBEZ to legislators.
    Task force members were also told by APHIS that meetings regarding NBEZ would be held in Jackson and Casper. APHIS was asked to hold additional meetings in Pinedale and Cody. Diemer told the Roundup those meetings have now been postponed until additional work can be done at the agency level. He further explained that, for individual ranches, ranch-specific details will be within their herd management plans written under the umbrella of NBEZ.
    Those management plans, he said, would assign a numerical risk value to ranches where the plan is completed. Ranchers within the designated area could improve their scores by taking management steps to mitigate the risk of wildlife to livestock transmission on their ranch.
    The Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) has asked ranchers within the state-defined Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) to complete a herd plan. To date, an estimated 10 percent of the ranchers within the DSA have completed such plans.
    Wyomingites, including Governor Dave Freudenthal, have been critical of NBEZ. In an early May letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Freudenthal and Idaho Governor Butch Otter stated their opposition to the proposal. (See Wyoming Livestock Roundup, May 9, 2009)
    “This is an interesting concept, but it does worry us,” said University of Wyoming College of Ag Dean and Brucellosis Task Force Chairman Frank Galey. He said the NBEZ document provides APHIS the opportunity to “wall us off and walk.”
    Diemer said the changes would allow his agency to focus its resources on the areas where brucellosis challenges remain.
    Freudenthal, who stated his intentions for Wyoming to develop its own proposal, has asked Cook to begin working with other state veterinarians on that document. “From Wyoming’s side, what I’m going to suggest is essentially our current rules,” said Cook of the state regulations surrounding brucellosis. “Wyoming has already put restrictions on our own cattle in our own identified risk area.” Cook said the change would provide protection while not creating an additional burden on livestock producers in that area.
    “It could be that the restrictions that you have right now are exactly what you’re looking for,” said Diemer.
    Marketability of Wyoming cattle is at the heart of the NBEZ proposal. Visiting with 13 state veterinarians from other states, Diemer said half think enough is being done to mitigate the disease, while the remaining half want individual identification of all cattle leaving the Greater Yellowstone Area.
    “Most of us agree on the concept,” said Diemer, “it’s the parts of it and how it’s going to work.”
    “If we can get it done proactively ahead of time there are a lot of benefits to a lot of producers in the state, but at the same time we want to protect those producers within the zone,” said Cook.
    A new timeline on which the NBEZ document will be published in the Federal Register hasn’t been determined.
     Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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