After testing over 759,000 animals, USDA announced Thursday it will cut back its testing of bovine spongiform encephalopathy tests to 40,000. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns says the lower number is still 10 times the international testing standard and assures the cutback will not impact ongoing trade resumption negotiations.
Johanns states some people have suggested the enhanced surveillance program stay in place indefinitely. "There's no scientific justification for doing so," he claims. "There is no significant BSE problem in the
The very earliest the transition can begin is late August, Johanns says. Currently approximately 5,000 tests or 1,000 animals a day are run, costing approximately $1 million per week. The enhanced surveillance program has been funded using emergency CCC funds totaling $157.8 million since June 2004. Ongoing surveillance will cost approximate $17 million per year using funds appropriated by Congress. The President's FY 2007 budget request includes this level of funding.
Under the program, USDA will continue to collect samples from a variety of sites and from the cattle populations where the disease is most likely to be detected, similar to the enhanced surveillance program procedures. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Administrator Ron DeHaven explains high-risk animals showing clinical signs will be tested. Although animals that died on the farm may be tested, it won't be as high of a priority in the scaled-back testing procedures, DeHaven explains.
Trading problems not expected
Since the beginning of 2006, Johanns has been public about the department's desire to scale-back testing. In April, USDA released an analysis of seven years of BSE surveillance data. This included data from an enhanced surveillance program, which began in June 2004, as a one-time effort to determine the prevalence of BSE in the
Johanns told reporters in a media call Thursday trading partners were made aware of the scaled-back testing prior to the official announcement. Even though trade resumption talks continue with
USDA has an obligation to provide 30 days notice of the change to contractors who are performing the sampling and testing, so the earliest the new surveillance program would begin is late August. That time allows us to work with trading partners to work out any issues, Johanns adds. "The hope is that they'll recognize the science behind this."
In the works
Johanns could not say whether
In addition, Johanns commented USDA is not ready to make a final announcement on a downer cattle ban but is finalizing details for a rule that may or may not make the non-ambulatory cattle ban permanent.
USDA has an investigator in Canada looking into last week's Canadian BSE find in a dairy cow born well-after the 1997 feed ban, only 50 months old. DeHaven says the