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Misc. News : Letter to Editor Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Group Asks USDA About Adequacy of Bovine Tuberculosis Mitigation Measures
By news release
Apr 17, 2007 - 3:06:54 PM

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R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

For Immediate Release                                                                     
Contact: Shae Dodson, Communications Coordinator
April 17, 2007                                                                                    
Phone:  406-672-8969;
e-mail: [email protected]


Group Asks USDA About Adequacy of Bovine Tuberculosis Mitigation Measures

Billings, Mont. – On Monday, R-CALF USA sent a formal letter to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns requesting an explanation from the agency on three items related to bovine tuberculosis: 1) why the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not taken more decisive action to protect our U.S. cattle herds from a known source of Bovine TB; 2) whether USDA is following even minimal international standards established by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) for preventing the spread of Bovine TB; and, 3) whether USDA has specific plans to begin providing the U.S. cattle industry with needed protection against this disease.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) administers USDA’s Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Program. Bovine TB is a contagious disease that can affect most mammals, including humans. The detection of this disease in the U.S. results in significant financial losses to affected U.S. cattle herds, as well as to all cattle herds residing in an affected state, principally due to the imposition of animal-movement restrictions. Several states – including Texas, California, New Mexico, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota and Colorado – have detected Bovine TB within their borders in recent years.

“R-CALF’s Animal Health Committee was recently informed about testimony presented to Congress by USDA’s Inspector General Phyllis Fong in March, in which Inspector General Fong indicated that APHIS is hampered by weaknesses in the oversight of the program that make it difficult for the agency to timely detect and eradicate this disease,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who chairs the organization’s animal health committee.

“In fact, she stated that APHIS’ status system did not capture most Bovine TB cases, and that approximately 75 percent of the TB-infected cattle detected through slaughter surveillance originate in Mexico, and that these animals spent months at U.S. farms and feedlots with no restrictions to prevent commingling with domestic cattle,” Thornsberry continued.

In a September 2006 Audit Report, Fong states that “although the majority of TB-infected cattle found by slaughter surveillance are from Mexico, APHIS has not developed controls to restrict the movement of cattle, or require additional testing to compensate for the disease’s incubation period. Until additional controls are added, APHIS cannot reasonably expect to achieve its goal and eradicate TB when it is being imported into the United States each year.”

R-CALF USA believes this information suggests that APHIS has not adequately protected the U.S. cattle herd from the introduction of Bovine TB from Mexico. This is particularly disturbing given the knowledge that the incidence of Bovine TB in Mexico is significantly higher than in the United States. For example, the Inspector General stated that Mexico reported over 2,000 TB-infected cattle herds in 2004, while the U.S. reported only 10 positive herds.

“R-CALF was pleased to learn from news reports that APHIS will now suspend imports from the Mexico state of Coahuila beginning today, April 17, as a result of ongoing Bovine TB concerns,” Thornsberry said.

“However, we do not understand why APHIS has delayed taking swift and decisive action to protect the U.S. cattle industry from the continual reintroduction of Bovine TB from Mexico – a condition that’s detrimental to the health and welfare of the U.S. cattle industry,” he emphasized. “We are also concerned that this action against only the state of Coahuila may not be sufficient to achieve a necessary level of protection.”

Note: To view R-CALF USA’s letter to USDA and other supporting documents, please visit the Animal Health link at Or, contact R-CALF USA Communications Coordinator Shae Dodson at the e-mail address or phone number above.

# # #

R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization and is dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on both domestic and international trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALF USA has more than 60 affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit or, call 406-252-2516.  

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