For Immediate Release
October 7, 2009
Public Information Officer
Montana Department ofLivestock
APHIS Brucellosis Plan Open for Public Comment
USDA-APHIS has published a concept paper describing a "new direction" for nation's bovine brucellosis program, thus announcing the agency's desire to update and revise its aging regulatory framework for the disease.
Published in the Federal Register (see the notice in html or PDF) on October 5, the concept paper incorporates comments from animal health officials who reviewed previous draft plans, such as the National Brucellosis Elimination Zone plan released by APHIS last fall.
Public comment on the concept paper will be accepted through December 4, 2009, and can be submitted electronically at the Federal eRulemaking Portal, or via postal mail by sending two copies of comments to: Docket No. APHIS-2009-0006, Regulatory Analysis & Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
State veterinarian Dr. Marty Zaluski, Montana Department of Livestock, said the concepts paper is "just another step in the evolution of USDA's federal brucellosis eradication effort."
"Existing rules have worked well to get the nation to brucellosis-free status, but we're there now and the rules need updated to reflect that significant achievement," Zaluski said. APHIS has historically updated its brucellosis rules every few years to keep up with technology and other changes in the industry, he added.
Zaluski said MDOL will be looking for four core principals in regard to updating brucellosis rules.
- Protecting ranchers from losing their herds: "The concept paper proposes to eliminate whole-herd depopulation when a herd is found to contain one or more brucellosis-infect animals."
- Protect producers in the rest of the state: "States would not lose Class Free status for infections found in the Greater Yellowstone Area, and that's a huge benefit to livestock producers in Montana as well as Idaho and Wyoming."
- Provide an assurance to trade partners that brucellosis-free status in their states will not be threatened: "Whatever course of action is taken, we have to assure our trade partners that their status will not be affected if they unknowingly import infected livestock from a GYA state."
- Flexibility for states to define special surveillance areas: "The new plan gives states more authority to define special surveillance areas than did previous plans."
Montana's livestock producers are particularly interested in a concept know as the Designated Surveillance Area (DSA), which specifically applies to the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), the last known remaining reservoir of bovine brucellosis in the nation. The DSA would make numerous changes to current federal brucellosis rules, including two significant revisions: Whole herd eradication would not be required when brucellosis-positive cattle are found within a herd, and GYA states would not lose Class Free status for any infections found within the defined DSA. APHIS sources say other special surveillance areas could be created if the disease is found elsewhere in wildlife.
Zaluski reiterated that the concept paper is "just a starting place," and that interested stakeholders will have ample opportunity to get involved in the federal rule-making process. Once the comment period on the concept paper closes, APHIS will make any necessary revisions to the plan, then relist it Federal Register as a proposed rule.
"The way it looks, there will be at least two chances to provide public comment," Zaluski said.
APHIS officials say there is no time frame on completing the federal rule making process, as there is no way to predict what kinds of comments will be received or how well the concept paper will be received.
Efforts to eradicate bovine brucellosis (Brucella abortus) in the U.S. began in 1934 as part of an economic recovery program designed to reduce the cattle population during severe drought conditions that plagued the nation during the Great Depression. At the time, brucellosis was the most significant livestock disease present in the U.S., with reactor rates of more than 11 percent in 1934-35.
In 1954, the magnitude of the brucellosis problem in the United States – both economic and from a human health perspective – prompted Congress to appropriate funds for a comprehensive national effort to eradicate brucellosis in livestock. The program was designed as a cooperative effort between the federal government, states and livestock producers. As the science and technology of brucellosis has developed over the years through research and experience, the eradication program has been modified many times.
Montana achieved Brucellosis Class Free Status in 1985, but lost that status in 2008 after two brucellosis-positive herds were found within a 12-month period. MDOL responded by forming a work group that included producers, veterinarians, market operators and industry organizations to develop a plan for regaining Class Free Status. The state's Brucellosis Action Plan was officially implemented on May 15, 2009, and APHIS reinstated Montana's Class Free Status in June, 2009, for the quickest reinstatement ever received by a GYA state.