USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) downgraded New Mexico's Bovine tuberculosis status today from mostly Accredited Free to Modified Accredited Advanced (MAA).
"Where we had a small MAA zone in the Eastern part of our state prior to that decision, our entire state now has MAA status,” the New Mexico Livestock Board reported on its Website (http://www.nmlbonline.com/index.php?id=16).
The reclassification is the result of detecting two herds with the disease in eastern New Mexico's accredited-free zone since May 2007, APHIS said in the interim ruling in today's Federal Register. "This action is necessary to reduce the likelihood of the spread of tuberculosis in the United States,” the document said.
"We hate it, of course,” Sharon Lombardi, executive director of New Mexico Dairy Producers Association, said today. "We anticipate it will cost us $6 million in testing costs, movement requirements and lost sales.”
New Mexico has more than 1.5 million cattle and calves, including 340,000 dairy cattle.
Lombardi and several of the producers she represents suspect Mexican roping steers as the source of the contagious respiratory disease. The animals enter the U.S. too easily, she said, adding, "USDA is not safeguarding our livestock in the U.S.”
New Mexico had been operating under a "split-state” status after the disease was detected in a large, two-herd dairy in 2007. Lombardi said she was disappointed that USDA had put the entire state under the new TB status, "since it took so long for us to get split-state status.”
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson joined the state's livestock industry in opposing the loss of the split-state status. Richardson asked USDA Secretary Ed Schafer this week to expand New Mexico's MAA zone in Roosevelt and Curry counties rather than downgrade the whole state.
"We have the resources, statutory authority and capacity to effectively control this problem,” noted Richardson.
Because of its extensive stretches of 200 miles or more with no towns, herds or infrastructure, a split-status TB designation works better for New Mexico than it does in other states, Lombardi said.
USDA has five status levels, or stages, for states and zones with bovine TB. Before today's ranking, New Mexico had been split into two levels: free and Modified Accredited Advanced.
USDA also is expected to downgrade California's bovine TB status after three herds tested positive for the disease this year. State and federal officials are considering a "split-state” status for California.
Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.