Wyoming helps APHIS form new national brucellosis plans
Lander – “The biggest reason was the perception that this was another plan put together by APHIS from a distance and that being pushed from the top down,” said Jerry Diemer, Associate Regional Director, Veterinary Services, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at the late September meeting of the Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team in Lander.
He was referring to the National Brucellosis Elimination Zone (NBEZ) proposal, which he described as “stalled out.”
“We decided we needed to start this thing anew,” he said. Part of that effort was the June 18 meeting of the three involved states in Idaho Falls, Idaho. “The purpose was to get ideas, observations and plans from the states.”
Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan attended the meeting to present the brucellosis management plan of Wyoming and Idaho.
“Now the federal role is more of a technical advisor,” said Diemer of APHIS’s position in the discussion. “We’re striving to become more flexible than we have in the past, and part of that is dropping of state brucellosis status, which we’ve had for a number of years. That’s a big part of the new proposal.”
He said the new perspective includes taking the dollars and resources available and focusing them on the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) in particular. “We’re stepping back to see how we can make the program move forward, and not get caught up in a restrictive mentality.”
Diemer called the core concepts of Wyoming and Idaho’s proposal a “good start.”
Logan said at the Idaho Falls meeting Wyoming and Idaho presented a draft alternative to the NBEZ proposal. The Wyoming and Idaho teams that created the draft did so at the direction of Governor Freudenthal and Idaho Governor Otter.
The core concepts address prevention and surveillance, disease response, disease management and the federal role in brucellosis management.
“All three GYA states currently have comprehensive prevention and surveillance programs – areas where we’re aware there are seropositive elk or bison,” said Logan. “All three states already have rules that dictate movement requirements.”
As a part of the new concept, the states would define the boundaries of their DSA, the states would set the rules, and APHIS would have the opportunity to review the state’s rules and boundaries and determine mitigation activities where adequate and appropriate.
Regarding disease response, if positive brucellosis cases are found within the DSA’s of any of the three states, they’d be handled the same as they currently are, with the infected herd quarantined as well as any herds that commingled with or were adjacent to the infected herd. The same options would be available to herds found positive outside the DSA’s.
The change would be that, regardless of how many positive herds are found in the DSA, the state’s class-free status would not change.
“If you’re not linked to an infected herd, the positive cases won’t affect your requirements,” said Logan.
Concerning disease management, Logan said the current uniform methods and rules address brucellosis from the age-old standpoint of cattle-to-cattle transmission, “Which we’re not likely to have again,” he said.
The states have tried to make changes in the documents to address wildlife-to-livestock transmission issues, including disease management and risk mitigation related to wildlife.
Logan said with the federal role in the new plan, states should support APHIS in its efforts to declare the U.S. as a whole brucellosis-free. In turn, each state would sign its own Memorandum of Understanding with APHIS, which will line out the particulars specific to each state’s needs and requirements.
Ryan Lance of Governor Freudenthal’s office said he thinks the MOU is critical, especially relative to the DSA boundary and the rules by which the states will conduct surveillance and management.
“The MOU piece needs to be strong to suggest that’s the way it’s going to work going forward. We know producers want to go to the Game and Fish when they have a problem, and not Fort Collins or Washington, D.C., and cattle producers want to go through the Livestock Board, and not APHIS,” said Lance.
Lance said Wyoming also needs to insist on “robust funding” for vaccine and other research, because that’s the long-term solution. “In the absence of that we’re concerned that federal and state interest in this may wane if the DSA is designated and everyone walks away. We need the research dollars up front.”
“In addition to the core principles and alternatives, we talked about some long-overdue changes needed in the brucellosis uniform methods and rules and the code of federal regulations,” said Logan of the federal role in the core concepts, adding that APHIS staff appeared to be amenable to the suggested changes.
“The intent is to standardize the whole process of how we handle these herds, and we’re trying to fit these core concepts into a national brucellosis program,” said Diemer. “The bottom line is we’re trying to be fair to everyone, in and out of the DSA’s, and in other states.”
The Federal Register is expected to publish the concept paper that came out of the Idaho Falls meeting within the first week of October.
Logan advised that, when preparing comments on the document, people keep in mind that it’s a concept paper on a new direction for the entire national brucellosis program, not just the GYA. “We are only a part of the entire picture this thing addresses,” he said, explaining that the core concepts can be found in the part of the document entitled “Example of New Approach.”
“I anticipate, going forward under the new rules, that Wyoming would be allowed to continue to use our current Chapter 2 rules, and my hope would be as they currently are,” said Logan. “The alternative is maintaining current the state status and losing it if we find another infected herd. A benefit I see with these new regulations is the rest of the state and others in the DSA will not be affected every time a positive herd is found.”
Logan said the underlying motivation through all of this is the marketability of Wyoming cattle. “Not just the Wyoming cattle outside the DSA, but Wyoming cattle regardless of their origin in our state are on as level of a playing field as they can be,” he explained.
After the proposal is published in the Federal Register it will be open for the usual 60-day comment period, during which there will be a national discussion at the U.S. Animal Health Association annual meeting in San Diego, Calif. in October.
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.