PNT Staff Report
WASHINGTON — The New Mexico congressional delegation Wednesday urged U.S. Agriculture Secretary Edward Schafer not to take any action related to bovine tuberculosis testing that would harm the entire state’s livestock industry.
In a letter to Schafer, Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Sen. Pete Domenici, along with Representatives Heather Wilson, Tom Udall and Steve Pearce, objected to a possible plan by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to force all New Mexico ranchers and dairies to test their cattle for bovine TB.
In 2003, bovine TB was discovered in cattle in Curry and Roosevelt counties. Since that time a zone within the two counties has been the only place in the state where cattle needed to be tested before being shipped out of state.
The discovery of a single new animal with bovine TB from a feedlot in Curry County has prompted USDA to consider amending New Mexico’s bovine TB status to one that requires statewide testing, according to a press release.
In the letter, the New Mexico lawmakers say that statewide testing would be a costly and unnecessary step.
“As we understand it, USDA is considering amending the bovine TB regulations to add New Mexico to the list of modified accredited advanced states as a result of the discovery of an infected animal earlier this year. This change would have dramatic consequences on the livestock industry in our state. Because we believe this change is not in accord with the USDA’s existing regulations, we are requesting your prompt review of the decision,” the letter states.
The letter adds that a change in New Mexico’s TB status is premature given that follow-up testing this year identified no additional infections.
The letter points out that the livestock industry is New Mexico’s single most important agricultural commodity with total annual sales of milk and beef cattle totaling almost $2 billion.
“We believe New Mexico continues to have in place the capability and resources to manage properly its existing split-state status, including regulations on the movement of cattle, monitoring of animals in the restricted zone and full enforcement of a tuberculosis eradication program. A downgrade of New Mexico’s status could cost our producers more than $4 million per year and could actually impede efforts to eliminate bovine TB as resources are shifted over to operations that pose little or no risk,” the letter states.