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R-CALF Opposes Phasing Out of Disease Surveillance

Cattlemen fear that if the national brucellosis surveillance program is phased out, an expensive mandatory livestock ID program could take its place.

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund board of directors is recommending that the USDA keep its brucellosis surveillance and vaccination program in place, in fear that if USDA phases out the program, it would set the stage for a mandatory national livestock ID program.

USDA is currently moving toward ending the federal brucellosis program in brucellosis-free states, R-CALF vice president Max Thornsberry says. However, he says that if USDA eliminates the program, it would leave an opening for a mandatory ID program which the cattlemen think would be too expensive for smaller cattle producers.

"Right now, (the brucellosis program) is the only trace-back program we have for animal diseases," says Thornsberry.

R-CALF supports the current voluntary livestock ID program. Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who runs a cattle feedlot, uses it on his own operation and finds it useful, but warns that a mandatory program "could put small outfits out of business."

Jim Watson, state veterinarian for the Mississippi Board of Animal Health and president of the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials, agrees that the current brucellosis surveillance program could be useful for other diseases as well.

"Part of the problem is just the name, 'brucellosis,'" he says.

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