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North Dakota wary of Minnesota bovine TB proposal
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    BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota wants assurances that Minnesota officials are closely monitoring cattle and wild deer if the federal government agrees to ease requirements for bovine tuberculosis testing in much of that state.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to decide within weeks on a proposed ‘‘split state zone’’ for bovine TB testing in Minnesota. It would set a special management zone in the northwestern part of the state where the disease has been found in cattle and deer, and another zone for the rest of the state.
    The North Dakota Board of Animal Health has never recognized another state’s ‘‘split’’ status, State Veterinarian Susan Keller said Wednesday. She said North Dakota is more likely to support Minnesota’s plan if that state can prove strict animal movement controls.
    That leaves open the possibility that even if the federal government approves Minnesota’s plan, North Dakota might keep the Minnesota cattle import restrictions the animal health board approved last February to protect North Dakota’s ‘‘TB-free’’ status, which it has held for more than 30 years.
    ‘‘Our state has the right to impose more stringent import requirements,’’ Keller said. But she said North Dakota hopes to support Minnesota’s plan because the two states are ‘‘close industry partners.’’
    The proposed northwestern Minnesota management zone under the split-state proposal extends north to Canada, but its western edge is about 40 miles east of the North Dakota border.
    Bill Hartmann, Minnesota’s state veterinarian, said he has talked with Keller about Minnesota’s plan and ‘‘would like for there to be free movement of cattle to other states based on the split-state status,’’ if the USDA approves.
    ‘‘We feel we are doing everything we can to contain the disease and eliminate the disease from that area,’’ Hartmann said of northwestern Minnesota.
    Shawn Schafer, a North Dakota Board of Animal Health member, said he thinks the proposed zone, which encompasses about 2,700 square miles, should extend to the North Dakota line, as well as farther east and south in Minnesota, to further guard against wild deer spreading the disease.

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