May 15, 2004
May 2004 --
USDA Reopens Comment Period on Proposal Establishing Regions That Present Minimal Risk of Introducing BSE
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on March 4, 2004, its reopening of the comment period on the proposed rule to amend regulations regarding the importation of animals and animal products from countries that have had isolated cases of BSE.
The proposed rule, first issued on Oct. 31, 2003, before the report of a BSE cow in Washington State and the implementation of several amelioration measures announced on Dec. 30, 2003, included Canada in a category of regions that present a minimal risk.
The initial comment period closed Jan. 5, 2004.
APHIS proposed in the rule to allow the importation of certain low-risk live ruminants and ruminant products and byproducts from minimal risk regions under certain conditions. This action allowed interested persons additional time to prepare and submit comments. Additionally, the notice requested comments on whether to allow the importation from BSE minimal-risk regions of beef from cattle 30 months of age or older in which the specified risk materials have been removed.
APHIS also prepared an explanatory note discussing the detection of BSE in an imported Canadian cow in Washington State and its effect on the risk analysis that was conducted for the proposed rule.
Both the original analysis and the explanatory note may be viewed on the APHIS Web site at www.aphis.usda.gov.
Veneman Announces Expanded BSE Surveillance
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced on March 15, 2004, details for an expanded surveillance effort for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States.
"We are committed to ensuring that a robust U.S. surveillance program continues in this country," said Veneman. "This one-time, extensive surveillance plan reflects the recommendation of the international scientific review panel."
The primary focus of USDA's enhanced surveillance effort will continue to be the highest risk populations for BSE. However, USDA will greatly increase the number of target animals surveyed and will include a random sampling of apparently normal, aged animals. Using statistical geographic modeling, the enhanced program could detect BSE even if there were only five positive animals in the entire country.
The sampling of apparently normal animals will come from the 40 U.S. slaughter plants that handle 86 percent of the aged cattle processed for human consumption each year. It is anticipated that the program will be fully implemented June 1, 2004.
USDA Certifies 7 Labs for BSE Testing
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced in late March the approval of seven geographically dispersed state laboratories that will assist in the surveillance program for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Labs in California, Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Washington, Georgia and New York will use approved rapid tests for BSE.
"USDA's intensive BSE surveillance program requires increased laboratory capacity strategically located across the country," said Dr. Ron DeHaven, deputy administrator for Veterinary Services. "Reducing the distance to the nearest lab will help ensure that we have the most rapid turnaround time possible."
The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, remains the national reference lab for BSE and will conduct confirmatory testing.
USDA Update on BSE
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced in late March that it had provided the results of its bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) investigation to foreign chief veterinary officers.
"We have provided information on the results of our epidemiological investigation and our recent BSE initiatives," stated Dr. Ron DeHaven, APHIS deputy administrator for Veterinary Services and chief veterinary officer for the United States. "This information demonstrates that any remaining trade restrictions against U.S. beef and beef products can be lifted without compromising safety."
BSE Feed Source Tracked
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) believes the cow in Washington State diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) last December was fed ruminant protein, in the form of meat and bone meal, prior to the ruminant protein ban.
The BSE-positive animal was born on April 9, 1997, in Alberta, Canada. The CFIA's on-farm investigation of the birth herd identified two feeds of interest - a dairy ration and a protein supplement. The Canadian feed mill's formula showed that ruminant meat and bone meal were used in rations until July 1997 and discontinued when the Canadian feed ban was implemented in August 1997.
The information gathered by CFIA over the course of the investigation would suggest that the "appearance of BSE in North America was likely due to the importation of cattle from the United Kingdom from 1982 to 1989?"
BSE Aid Package for Canadian Producers
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) announced in late March $995 million in assistance for Canadian farmers who face historic financial challenges brought on by circumstances beyond their control.
The Transitional Industry Support Program will provide $680 million to Canadian producers of cattle and other ruminants who face prolonged closure of the Canadian-U.S. border due to the discover of BSE in May 2003. Producers will receive a flat-rate payment based on their herd inventories as of Dec. 23, 2003. Payments per animal will be up to $80, cattle; $16, goats and sheep; $80, bison; $40, elk; and $20, deer.
Producers must submit an application and declare their inventories to receive payments under the program. At press time, it was anticipated that payments would begin to flow to producers in April.
An additional $250 million will be paid as direct payments to producers as they bridge to the new Canadian Agriculture Income Stabilization program. Payments will be based on a producer's five-year average of eligible net sales.
The remaining $65 million has been earmarked to cover the government's share of the shortfall for the 2002 claim-year under the Canadian Farm Income Program. In 2002, claims to the program exceeded the amount available, due in large part to drought conditions in western Canada.
AAFC stated that producers have faced many challenges over the last years, including closure of export markets, an appreciation of the Canadian dollar and consecutive droughts in the prairies.
Interstate Transportation of Animal Regulation Amended
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) amended as of March 4, 2004, the regulation governing interstate transportation of animals and the requirements for the collection of blood and tissues samples from livestock and poultry at slaughtering and rendering establishments when necessary for disease surveillance.
The change mainly affects slaughtering and rendering plants that receive animals via interstate commerce as well as the owners of herds or flocks in cases where test-positive animals are traced back to their origin.
APHIS amended the rule in an effort to improve long-term surveillance programs for animal diseases in an attempt to control or even eradicate such disease and to assist in certifying the status of the United States and its regions from specific animal diseases.
The Federal Register rule can be located at: http://frwebgate1.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate.cgi?WAISdocID=846044179872+3+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve.
USDA's SOSS Report Phase II Released
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health released in mid March the Phase II: Scrapie: Ovine Slaughter Surveillance Study 2002-2003 (SOSS) report.
The SOSS study was completed by APHIS' Veterinary Services program with the assistance of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, the American Sheep Industry Association and contract laboratories.
The objective of SOSS was to estimate the national and regional prevalence of scrapie in mature sheep. The study determined the weighted estimate for the national scrapie prevalence in mature sheep to be 0.20 percent.
The report also details the weighted prevalence estimates by face color and age. It also contains specific information about how the study was designed and conducted.
A copy of the full report can be located at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ceah/cahm/Sheep/SOSS.pdf.
Consistent State Status Review
"We urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to conduct a review of 'consistent state' status in regard to the scrapie eradication program." That was the crux of a letter sent by American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) President Guy Flora to Dr. Ron DeHaven, deputy administrator for USDA, APHIS, Veterinary Services.
In order for the National Scrapie Eradication Program to be effective, it is important that adequate national uniformity and consistency be achieved. It is critical that all positive and exposed animals are traced-out appropriately in order to find infected and source flocks. This can only be accomplished when requirements are being met and regulations being actively enforced.
"We must achieve as near 100-percent compliance as possible (on identification) in order to find the roots of this disease since it is of low prevalence," stated Flora.
Request to CFA Regarding Bluetongue
American Sheep Industry Association President Guy Flora in late March sent a letter to the Canadian Sheep Federation urging it to assist its government in seeking a revision to the bluetongue requirements for exporting feeder lambs from the United States to Canada.
Earlier in the month, an agreement was reached between the two countries to change the import requirements on U.S. feeder cattle to allow feeders from 39 states that are low risk for bluetongue and anaplasmosis to be exported to Canada year-round.
"We see this as an opportunity to build science-based animal health equivalency in our trade relations," said Flora.
MUMS Passes Senate
MUMS (Minor Use Minor Species Animal Health Act) legislation was successfully voted out of the Senate by unanimous consent and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on March 8, 2004.
This legislation holds great potential for the sheep industry in regard to the treatment of animals, as well as for many other minor uses and minor species groups.
Lichen Likely Killer of Elk in Wyoming
Wildlife officials are stating that a lichen species that led to the deaths of sheep and cattle a half-century ago is responsible for the mysterious deaths of nearly 300 elk in southern Wyoming in February 2004.
The lichen, called parmelia, can produce an acid that eventually breaks down muscle tissue. Biologists are now studying why the elk were affected this winter but not in previous winters.