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Published April 09, 2008, 12:00 AM

Federal government downgrades Minnesota’s bovine TB status

The federal government has downgraded Minnesota’s status for bovine tuberculosis effective Wednesday, meaning the movement of cattle and bison from Minnesota to other states will be restricted to prevent the spread of the disease.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The federal government has downgraded Minnesota’s status for bovine tuberculosis effective Wednesday, meaning the movement of cattle and bison from Minnesota to other states will be restricted to prevent the spread of the disease.

The restrictions, which had been expected, will not affect animals going to slaughter or coming from herds certified as TB-free. But other animals being shipped out of state, such as feeder cattle, will have to undergo costly testing.

North Dakota regulators had already taken precautions. The Board of Animal Health in late February ordered tougher testing requirements on Minnesota cattle before they could be brought across the border. North Dakota has been tuberculosis-free since 1976.

Bovine TB turned up in Minnesota in 2005, and officials have found 11 infected cattle herds since then. All of them were in Beltrami and Roseau counties in northwestern Minnesota. The discovery of the latest infected herd in February triggered the downgrade.

Bovine tuberculosis can be transmitted to people who have direct contact with infected animals or who drink unpasteurized milk from them. Pasteurized milk, however, does not spread the disease.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty named a state coordinator last week to help organize efforts to eradicate the disease and to reduce the economic strain on cattle producers.

Also last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved $2.7 million in emergency funding to fight bovine TB in Minnesota. The money will be used to eliminate infected cattle herds and for extra surveillance of deer, which can carry the disease.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health is negotiating with the USDA to get “split state status,” which would create a special zone where the disease has been found. That would allow the majority of the state’s producers to return to their previous higher status and greatly decrease the amount of testing required.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is also working with the federal government to try to relieve most of the state’s dairy producers from the most costly testing requirements.

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On the Net:

State of Minnesota TB Re-sponse: www.mntbfree.com

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: www.aphis.usda.gov

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