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State Seeks to Avoid TB ‘Nuclear Option’

Agriculture Blog Post
December 8, 2017

Deer grazing in a foggy corn fieldAccording to the Michigan Ag Connection and Michigan Farm News, Michigan livestock farmers are closely monitoring current discussions between Michigan and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) concerning ongoing efforts to eradicate Bovine Tuberculosis (TB). The USDA wants the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to get serious about the deer herd population in and around Deer Management Unit 452 in northeast Michigan. It is debated who is infecting whom, but the farming community thinks it’s clear that deer continue to infect cattle with TB. 

The USDA has threatened to regress all of the Lower Peninsula back to a Modified Accredited TB status unless the state can comply with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between USDA and MDARD that's been in place since 2014. The MOU requires Michigan to have no more than three infected cattle herds in any 12-month period if it wants to keep its TB-Accredited Free status for all of the Lower Peninsula except Montmorency, Alpena, Oscoda and Alcona counties, according to Michigan's State Veterinarian Dr. James Averill. "We had five infected herds in 2016, so we've been out of compliance with the MOU for a year and a half," Averill said, adding that USDA outlined their options in an August meeting. "The USDA's options would reinstate testing, but would do nothing to address the interaction between domestic animals and wildlife." 

If that option were to become reality, the entire Lower Peninsula would be required to go back to a system of whole-herd testing on a lottery basis, along with movement testing within 60 days of any animals leaving the farm. That option is the worst-case scenario and could seriously damage Michigan's $16 billion dairy industry and its $529 million beef industry, according to Michigan Farm Bureau's Manager, Commodity, Farm and Industry Relations and Livestock and Dairy Specialist, Ernie Birchmeier. A better option, according to Averill, would be one that maintains current TB status designations, while putting additional focus on both livestock and wildlife management practices. If such efforts are agreeable to the USDA, it could help avert the federal government from "taking the nuclear option" of regressed TB status, says Averill.

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